Today: April 17, 2024

In Darkness

No film has, or can, ever

No film has, or can, ever capture the
real atmospheres or tensions of events such as those depicted in Agnieszka
Holland’s new film In Darkness, but that should not detract from all that is
brilliant about this film.

Depicting the extraordinary experiences of a group of Polish Jews who take
shelter in the city sewers during the Nazi occupation of Lwów, In Darkness is a
masterclass in sensory deprivation and uncomforting cinematography. And
although the sheer horror of these events can’t be emulated when you’re in the
comfort of your cinema seat, the overwhelming power of this true story cannot
be ignored.

Set in the gloom
and shadows of the sewers, Holland predominately has the audience down
underground with the characters, grovelling amongst the muck. Holland also
treats the subject matter with the respect it deserves and it is clear that
from this film how many stories remain to be told when it concerns the
Holocaust. This particular story of a sewer worker, Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), who stores a small group of Jews in
the complex networks of sewer systems, is almost unbelievable.

Holland’s script
also proves particularly adept at avoiding a romanticised view of those
afflicted by Nazi prejudice. As was similarly depicted in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist,
there are duplicitous and untrustworthy characters on all sides. Indeed, not
all those who survived the Holocaust were of a wholly decent disposition but
they survived nonetheless. And In Darkness is a film that depicts the desperate
lengths some went to in order to survive.

Even their sewer
rat saviour is no angel – he burgles houses for extra cash and refers
derogatorily to Jews as “Yids”. At first he sees an economic opportunity and
chooses only to save a few so as not to risk being caught. But as time passes,
Socha is drawn in by the enormous human struggle that the group is forced to
endure and begins to help out in ways even he couldn’t have expected.

On the occasions
the camera does surface from the sewers there is a desperate need to suddenly
exhale and breath, to gasp in the light. Such is the suffocating nature of In
Darkness that at times the tension becomes unbearable. But tearing yourself
away from this real life knife-edge is impossible.

Though not
always perfectly told and a little stodgy in the interludes between the
sparking drama, In Darkness is more than worthy of its Oscar nomination this
year for Best Foreign Language Film thanks to its utter dedication to a
remarkable story.

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