In 1944, during the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis, Polish Lieutenant Zadra
and his resistance fighters use Warsaw's sewer system to escape the German encirclement
A symbolic depiction of hell on Earth, set in the last days of the Warsaw uprising in 1944.
Lieutenant Zadra is commanding a company of 43 men in a desperate battle amidst the ruins.
Facing German offense and cut off from their comrades,
Zadra is commanded to retreat his men through the sewer system ('kanal').
Zadra and his men are reluctant to do so, as it would indicate
that they have lost the battle, but decide to obey the orders.
However, as the men (and women) retreat, it becomes clear that their desperate attempt
to flee from the hell of battle will result only in more death and suffering...
Written by Heka A.
Teresa Izewska ... Stokrotka
Tadeusz Janczar ... Ens. Jacek 'Korab'
Wienczyslaw Glinski ... Lt. 'Zadra'
Tadeusz Gwiazdowski ... Sgt. 'Kula'
Stanislaw Mikulski ... Smukly
Emil Karewicz ... Lt. 'Madry'
Vladek Sheybal ... Michal 'Ogromny', the composer (as Wladyslaw Sheybal)
Teresa Berezowska ... Halinka
Zofia Lindorf ... Old woman looking for her daughter
Janina Jablonowska ... Woman
Maria Kretz ... Wounded Woman
Jan Englert ... Zefir
Kazimierz Dejunowicz ... Capt. 'Zabawa'
Zdzislaw Lesniak ... Maly
Maciej Maciejewski ... Lt. 'Gustaw'
Adam Pawlikowski ... SS Man
Jerzy Stefan Stawinski ... (screenplay)
Jerzy Stefan Stawinski ... (story)
Teresa Izewska was paid the equivalent of $12 a month.
Polish authorities bought her one dress and one pair of shoes
to represent them at the Cannes Film Festival.
Director Andrzej Wajda was himself a fighter in the Polish resistance movement
against the Nazis in World War II and several scenes in the film were based on his experiences.
A lot of the film's crew members took part in the 1944 Warsaw uprising
(e.g. cinematographer Jerzy Lipman or actor Tadeusz Janczar).
Screenwriter Jerzy Stefan Stawinski used the sewers during the uprising
in order to get from the southern district of Mokotów to the city center
As he said in an interview, each character in the film has at least
one equivalent of a real-life insurgent he was acquainted with.
Andrzej Wajda originally wanted Zbigniew Cybulski to play 'Korab'.
Based on the eponymous 1956 short story by Polish author, screenwriter
and film director Jerzy Stefan Stawinski who himself participated
in the Warsaw Uprising. Stawinski was a soldier of Armia Krajowa
(the Polish underground resistance army).
The film is largely free of the usual overt Communist propaganda present
in most films made by Communist Bloc nations.
The toned-down film was made after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin,
and after the fall of the Stalinist Polish regime of Boleslaw Bierut.
This explains the more relaxed political censorship applied against this film.
Just after the short story by Stawinski was published, Tadeusz Konwicki,
the literary manager of Zespól Filmowy "Kadr", decided it should be filmed.
Konwicki was looking for the right director and his first choice was Andrzej Munk.
Munk, however, backed out of the project when he descended himself to the sewers.
He thought it was impossible to depict in the movie two most important
characteristics of the sewers: the darkness and the odor.
The sewer scenes were shot in the backyard of a film studio in Lódz.
The actors had to wander there and forth in welded bathtubs full of water for several weeks.
In order not to contract pneumonia, all of them had to drink vodka
after getting out of the water.
After the official premiere on April 20, 1957 at the Moscow Cinema in Warsaw,
the film had to face quite cold reception from Polish critics,
who had wanted a movie monument to the heroes but received a bitter picture
about the last days of the uprising. Some criticized historical inaccuracies
(like uniform mistakes or too modern dialogues), others pointed out that the
characters lack psychological credibility.
The reception of the movie in Poland got warmer after its success
at the Cannes Film Festival, and its importance has grown gradually through the years.
The film was an immediate smash hit.
In 1957, it had 4.2 m viewers in Poland.
The distribution rights were sold to many countries, including France,
China, Japan, Italy, UK, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Canada, Israel, Greece, West Germany,
Hungary, Bulgaria, Portugal, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, India, Turkey,
Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Argentina, Brazil and the Soviet Union.
Dluga, Sródmiescie, Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland (manhole)
Miodowa, Sródmiescie, Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland (manhole)
Sniegockiej, Solec, Sródmiescie, Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland (day light)
Wytwórnia Filmów Fabularnych, Lódz, Lódzkie, Poland (studio)