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In Darkness

In Darkness

Released 16 March 2012
Director Agnieszka Holland

Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Furmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader, Herbert Knaup, Marcin Bosak
Writer(s) David F. Shamoon

Leander Carell, Wojciech Danowski, Marc-Daniel Dichant, Eric Jordan, Patrick Knippel, Juliusz Machulski, Steffen Reuter, Paul Stephens
Origin Poland, Germany, Canada
Running Time 145 minutes
Genre Drama, war
Rating 15A

There is light.

Put simply, it is clear why In Darkness was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Harrowing, touching, laced with both evil and good throughout, this Polish drama is a must-see for anyone interested in World War II, the history of the horrific Holocaust and a sheer will to survive by any means necessary.

Based on a true story in Nazi-occupied Poland, Leopold Socha is a sewer worker and common thief who, along with his brother, stumbles upon a group of Jews trying to escape the wrath of another hate-fuelled siege. Socha knows the intricate maze of the sewers like the back of his hand and agrees to hide the dozen or so helpless selection of men, women and children in exchange for money.

Married with a young daughter of his own, Socha gradually connects with the group – especially a girl of similar age to his own – as he begins to risk more than even his own life to safeguard their dark, meaningless but in a strange way extremely meaningful, existence. As the makeshift underground family await their weekly supply of rations, they each battle inner demons, death and breakdowns as any light at the end of their tunnel mournfully dims day by day.

Beautifully scripted and honestly portrayed by a superb cast, director Agnieszka Holland finds a way to reflect the fourteen month period in what is a relatively long, but never boring, portrayal of one of Europe's worst periods. Prolonged sequences in the sewers attempt to instil the claustrophobia that would have saturated their lives while the sacrifice, for both the group and Socha himself, testifies to any war-stricken region, reminding that for better or worse we are all human.

This film is not really for the faint-hearted. While not a violently graphic drama, there will undoubtedly be times when you want to turn away in either sympathy or disbelief. However, for all of the hardship In Darkness is worth seeing, for no other reason simply than for the remarkable tale that it is.

- David Caulfield