Kanal (Andrzej Wadja, 1957)

“These are the heroes of the tragedy. Watch them closely. For these are the last hours of their lives.”


What do these last hours sound like?

A stern, dark eyed man plays the piano gently, his refletion in the polished surface representing a clarity that is absent from the rest of Polish culture. There are scenes of closeness, yet we are still held at a distance, held back as intruders, spyers, uninvited. When there is finally a scene, almost 25 minutes in, when we are shown real intimacy, and the camera lingers close on bodies, on kisses and caresses, on the folds of his shirt and the flows of her blonde hair, they are ripped from us by a bomb, an attack. Violence launches. The man playing piano so beautifully is now an accoplice with a cannon.

From here, the threat never leaves. Moments of joy are quickly bombed, bloodied, killed. At the next moment of rest, characters converse. “The Silence is deafening.” “It’s only a brief pause.” The man with whom we were sharing his intimacy is shot, wounded, incapacitated. The piano is out of tune. “Now all I come up with are empty sounds.”

Gunfire becomes dull, droning, a constant soundtrack. When there’s no gunfire, in the sewers, the silence is not a sign of rest or of solace. It is not a cloak of comfort. It is something to be feared, and it is terrifying, because it threatens to expose. The Germans soak the sewers with gas, and it becomes even more claustrophobic.

The groaning of the almost empty sewer, a sewer filled with death and rot. “Stumbling through stinking shit,” as Daisy says, despite her lover wanting to lighten his world with illusion. The sewer pathways get smaller and smaller. Pascal said, “The silence of infinite space fills me with terror.” Here the space is constricted, it is narrow, it is not infinite – but in a way, the space in which they are vulnerable to capture is infinite. The silence if terrifying. It is almost paralysing. And it takes them.


About cinemelo

I love to write about film and comment on culture. Hopefully providing insight and interesting thoughts for fellow cultural itinerants.
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