Film: In Darkness (2011)
Cast includes: Robert Wiechiewicz, Benno Fürmann (Joyeux Noel), Agnieszka Grochowska (Wasaw)
Director: Agnieszka Holland (The Secret Garden)
Genre: WWII drama based on actual events (145 minutes) | Mostly Polish with subtitles
Socha is an opportunist. Since the German invasion of Poland, Lvov’s Jews have been living in a ghetto. They regularly have to sell their valuables to get money for food. And while “The shit is worth nothing now,” Socha knows it’ll be worth something someday. And as a sewer inspector, he has something few others have… a perfect hiding place. “No one knows the sewers better than Socha.” So, you can imagine his surprise when a small band of Jews secretly dig a tunnel into the sewer. “So we meet again.” Socha knows this particular Jew. It’s Mundek, the one who sold him the fake engagement ring. Mundek offers a bribe for Socha’s silence. “There’s no place for Jews in Lvov anymore.” “There’s no place here for you,” counters Socha. Socha already knows how brutal the Germans are when rounding up Jews. But their plight is not his problem. On the other hand, these Jews are willing to pay for his silence. “We can turn them in later,” he tells his friend… and the tentative bargain is struck.
Machine gun fire and screams signal the beginning of the ghetto clear out. With no time to prepare, men, women and children must scramble down their hole in the ground… most against their will. It’s incomprehensible that anything can be worse than this… the dampness, the smell, the darkness and the rats. And if they’re to survive, they need someone to bring them food from outside… a very dangerous proposition. Most of this story revolves around the relationship between the above ground world and the underground world. While Lvov’s Catholic population has no love for the Jews, the Germans have no love for the Poles. During WWII, all of Lvov’s citizens existed in one of the many layers of hell… constantly fearing that a misstep would condemn them to an even lower layer. On the other hand, Socha could earn a better status and collect 500 zlotys for every Jew he turns in.
This theme has been covered in many previous films, so when a new one comes out, we may well ask whether it covers new ground or does it better than previous films. I believe it does. While it sounds a bit like Schindler’s List, it differs in several important ways. In Darkness is a much more realistic and gritty film. And the character arcs are far more believable and complex. It’s based on the book, “In the Sewers of Lvov,” which describes actual events. While there are true heroes, to be sure, they are never romanticized. No one escapes the cruel brutality during WWII. When a German soldier is killed, 10 Poles are hanged. “The good people always suffer,” says a woman who’d gladly turn in Jews for 500 zlotys a head.
3 popped kernels
A gritty, realistic depiction of actual WWII events… Jews who avoided Nazi capture by hiding in the sewers of Lvov and their unlikely collaborator
Rated: R (Violence, sexual content)
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & thought provoking
Even though this trailer doesn't have subtitles, the film does!