In Darkness is the latest Agnieszka Holland’s (Europa Europa, The Killing) Seconds World War drama. It’s an emotional, dramatic and poignant film. It’s the winner of many awards at international film festivals and was the Polish candidate for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
In Darkness is based on the true story of Leopold Socha (Robet Wieckiewicz) a Lvov sewer worker, petty thief, who cherished money too much. Viewers may think, while watching the first part of the film, that he wasn’t sentimental or brave enough to commit a heroic act. Socha got a chance to earn a vast amount of money by helping Polish Jews to hide in the sewage canals. At the beginning his motive was clear: money; over time, however, his motivations began to change.
He hid the Jews, but the group was too big. He decided to play master and commander by choosing only the few people who, in his mind, would be able to pay for their safety and passage through the canals. The characters of Mundek (brilliant Benno Furman; Tom Sawyer,The Frontier),Klara (Agnieszka Grochowska ; Walesa,American Dream), Paulina (Maria Schrader), Ignacy (Herbert Knaup),Yanek, Stefek and Krystyna will take the audience on a journey where it will learn about the ghetto survivors’ lives and struggles; witness death, love, betrayal and despair. Through all these vicissitudes the viewers will see Socha’s changes: instead of charging the Jews for his help in the canals, he brought them food, books and clothes while becoming a huge part of their lives. Socha didn’t give up on them even when his own family life fell apart: his compassion for the group grew more every day.
Most of the action took place in Lvov canals. The canals became to the Jews their outside world. The viewers could only see the city from Leopold Socha’s perspectives. The climate of the movie was also underlined by the fact that the characters talked to each other in German and in Yiddish.
Agnieszka Holland did an excellent job. Together with the director of photography, Jolanta Dylewska (Made in Poland, The Boy on the Galloping Horse), she created a terrifying underground world that could last forever or one which could collapse within seconds. The audience will be placed in a claustrophobic, sultry world of canals, arousing their fears and causing them goosebumps.
Despite the slow pace of the action, the filmmaker managed to produce extraordinary tension throughout the film. In Darkness glorifies the best traits of human nature: willpower, love for live, sacrifice and heroism. Its characters expressing their true nature while still celebrating life and all its traditions, despite their living conditions. In Darkness is a beautifully written film, definitely worth seeing.
Written by Maggie Gogler