|In Darkness (A)|
A harrowing and atmospheric period piece about one of the worst atrocities to ever occur, In Darkness is a realistic and insightful picture for those able to handle the bleak subject matter.
In Darkness is based on the true story of Leopold Socha, who risked his life hiding Jewish people in the sewer during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The movie version of Socha is an ordinary man who works in the sewer in order to support his wife and child. For extra money, Socha burglarizes houses, but he is able to quit this when he discovers a group of Jewish refugees who pay him to help hide them in the sewers he knows so well. Socha’s motives are unclear, but it appears this is because he himself isn’t sure of whether he is in it for the money or because it is the right thing. There is no point where Socha announces his change of heart; his life slowly becomes consumed with helping the refugees, long after it stopped being profitable for himself.
Socha has good reason to be conflicted. For starters, his family would be in peril if his actions were discovered. Also, the Nazis brutality is not just limited towards Jews--any harm that falls on the soldiers is viciously avenged by massacring scores of Poles.
There are several subplots. The refugees miserable lives in the sewers leads to conflict and fighting and the class differences between them tears them apart almost as much as their mutual circumstances unite them together. A romance between two of the poorer Jews slowly matures, though the gratuitous nudity in their (brief) sex scene is not something that should be in the movie. Socha’s partner in crime is aware of Socha’s actions, but doesn’t wish to be involved. Socha is also friends with a Ukranian he was in prison with, who has found new success as a Nazi commander. Socha and his wife has a deep and multi-layered relationship: Few romance films create such a genuine and heart-wrenching love story.
In Darkness is a Polish film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is directed by Agnieszka Holland, political activist and director of Europa, Europa. Holland is half Catholic and half Jewish, which might explain why both races are portrayed in equally realistically and sympathetically. The story is written by David F. Shamoon in his scriptorial debut. Hopefully goes on to greatness; he certainly has potential.
Robert Wieckiwicz gives an Oscar worthy performance as Socha; hopefully he is able to make the transition to US films. Kinga Preis is also excellent as Socha’s wife, though honestly every single member of the cast does a fantastic job.
One of the best and boldest parts of the picture is that Socha and the refugees never connect or become friends. There are moments when they get so very close, but in the end the refugees neither trust nor respect Socha. It is clear Socha is very hurt by this; he himself is never able to open up to them enough to see them as equals. He isn’t doing it because of loyalty to them--his actions are simply because it is the right thing to do.
Even by Holocaust movie standards In Darkness is depressing. The lengthy extremes of misery portrayed are certainly far more than some people would find healthy to sit through. However, if you can stomach the very grim subject matter, the picture can be very uplifting, even if its ending isn’t particularly happy. The events that occurred are amazing and this film stands as a testament to people’s ability to persist on the path of righteousness even when it completely hopeless.
While not for everyone, many will be able to experience the powerful, insightful, and thematically rich In Darkness.