In Darkness DVD
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Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Produced in 2011
Main Language - Polish with English subtitles
Based on the true story of sewage worker Leopold Socha, who saved 14 Jews in Lvov in WWII, this is a compelling, claustrophobic film with the tang of authenticity, writes David Parkinson.
Leopold Socha is one of 6000 Poles considered a 'Righteous Gentile' by the Israeli government for their efforts in helping the Jews during WWII. Drawing on Robert Marshall's study In the Sewers of Lvov, this Oscar-nominated account of his wartime deeds owes more to the uncompromising realism of Andrzej Wajda's A Generation (1954) and Kanal (1957) than the glossy melodramatics of recent Hollywood reconstructions. Moreover, it boldly suggests that not all the persecuted were innocent victims.
Despite working as a sewer inspector, Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) was also a petty thief, who saw the rounding up of the Jews in Lvov in 1941 as an opportunity to loot their abandoned homes. However, on being commissioned by crook-turned-collaborator Bortnik (Michal Zurawski) to scour the sewerage system for fugitives, Socha and cohort Szczepek Wróblewski (Krzysztof Skonieczny) cut a more lucrative deal to protect those in hiding. Yet, despite planning to turn them into the Gestapo for a handsome reward when their funds run out, Socha found his conscience getting the better of him.
As the daughter of a Jewish father who lost his parents in the Warsaw Ghetto and a Catholic mother who fought against the Nazis in the capital's 1944 Uprising, Agnieszka Holland is well placed to recall Socha's reluctant heroics and to examine how much ordinary citizens knew about the Holocaust. As in Europa, Europa (1990), she refuses to trivialise the war by viewing it in terms of black and white. Thus, she exposes the prejudices that existed among the refugees, with her special ire being reserved for the man who shamelessly betrays both his wife and his mistress. But, while the emphasis primarily falls on social, sexual and psychological tensions, there are also moments of excruciating suspense as children get lost in the labyrinthine tunnels and a rainstorm causes water levels to rise.
The ensemble acting is superb, as are Erwin Prib's sets and Daniel Pellerin's sound design, which chillingly reinforces the sense of claustrophobic enclosure. But it's Holland's willingness to stage crucial action in disconcertingly deep shadow and her understanding of human nature that makes this so authentic and so compelling.
David Parkinson on 18th June 2012
Author of 191 reviews
An acclaimed WWII drama, Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness is based on the true story of a sewage worker who saved the lives of 14 Jews in the Polish city of Lvov during the Second World War.
Leopold 'Poldek' Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), a resolutely anti-Semitic sewer inspector who supplements his meagre government income by trading in stolen goods, discovers a group of Jews hiding from the occupying Nazis in the waste tunnels underneath the city. The group begs him to bring them food and Socha agrees - not from any moral compulsion but because he believes he can charge them an extortionate amount of money for what he brings. However, as time passes and Leopold spends more time with a group of people who come to rely on him for survival, the inspector's misanthropic demeanour appears to undergo a change. Finally, the money begins to run out and Leopold is forced to face up to the kind of moral choice he would have previously scoffed at.
Length: 144 mins
Cat No: MTD5722
Format: DVD Colour