In Darkness, Compelling Holocaust Drama (Film Review)

Darkness POST

One of the most compelling true stories has opened in theaters.  The World War II holocaust film is called In Darkness and tells the incredible story of the attempted slaughter of Jews in a Polish city.  Intolerable, painful and realistic the tragic attempted extermination shows the heroism of some Polish citizens who sacrificed their own well being for the sake of others.  

The account of the happenings over a 14 month period in 1943 Poland involve Leopold Socha (Robert Więckiewicz) a sewer worker and petty thief trying to survive in a time of a forced depressed economy devised by the Nazis to keep control over the city. Along with his friend the two pilfer from unoccupied dwellings and anywhere they can find something of value left behind by murdered Jews.

Jewish woman flees German capture during a roundup

The Russians are closing in on the city and the Nazis are slowly moving out leaving the stench of death in their wake.  Leopold comes up with a plan to try and save as many Jews as he can in the sewers where he works for their money and jewels.  The sewers are filthy but the Jewish families he has gathered see no escape other than this.  When Bortnik (Michal Zurawski), an old friend and high level Ukrainian Officer complicit with the Nazis offers Leopold a deal to search the sewers for Jews, things start to take an unexpected turn that puts him and his own family in jeopardy.

Jewish family hides in sewer

The sets, cinematography and special make-up are creative depicting the filth and claustrophobic underground in which the Jewish families had to hide.  The endless tunnels create a labyrinth that unless one knows how to navigate the system, it may develop into a tragedy, especially for the youngsters of the group.  The stench and unsanitary conditions in which they had to live create a queasy feeling.

Director Agnieszka Holland takes his cameras deep into the cavernous sets and spins the most degrading part of his story.  Here the families lived for over a year surviving on little food, unsanitary water, cramp conditions, in a darkness of what was above them and their future.  With little outside contact except for a Jewish con man Mundek Margulies (Benno Furmann) and Leopold the families were unaware of the grave circumstances involving hangings, murder and atrocities that may have ended their lives above their sanctuary.

The film does have a ‘Hollywood’ flavor, but screenwriter David F. Shamoon bases his story on fact from a book by Robert Marshall called In the “Sewers of Lvov”.  The inhumanity to man are depicted realistically showing the cruelty, degradation and depravity of the Nazis in their attempt to control Poland and continue their cleansing quest. The film offers no solution, just heroism and a showing of kindness however minuscule in the reality of all the countries that faced the extermination of their people.

The MPAA has rated In Darkness R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity and language.  The movie is shown in several combined languages including Polish, German and Yiddish with English subtitles. It was one of the five films chosen by the Academy of Motion Pictures under the category of Best Foreign Language Film.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  An outstanding account of Nazi injustice. (A) 

Additional film information:

  • Cast: Robert Więckiewicz, Benno Fürmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader, and Herbert Knaup
  • Directed by: Agnieszka Holland
  • MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity and language
  • Genre: War, Foreign,
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 15 min
  • Opening Date: April 6, 2012
  • Languages: Polish/German/Yiddish/Ukrainian (with English Subtitles)
  • Honors: Oscar Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film (Poland), Critics’ Choice Movie Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics


You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress