W ciemnosci (In Darkness)
Autumn 2012 Features series
Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 4:00pm
Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 7:00pm
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Screenplay by David F. Shamoon
Based on the book by Robert Marshall
Starring Benno Fürmann, Robert Wieckiewicz, and Agnieszka Grochowsk
Rated 14A ·
German, Yiddish, Ukrainian, and Polish
Acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland’s (Europa Europa) oscar-nominated In Darkness is based on a true story set in Nazi-occupied Lvov, Poland in 1943 where the weak prey upon the weaker, the poor steal from the less poor and no one can be trusted.
Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), a sewer worker and petty thief, struggles to make ends meet for his wife and daughter. His friend, Bortnik, a high-living Ukrainian Officer, dangles the promise of a better life: all Socha has to do is find Jews hiding in the sewers. After all, no one knows the system better than Socha, who uses it as a hiding place for his loot. Soon enough, Socha comes across a motley group of Jews trying to escape the upcoming liquidation of the Lvov ghetto by hiding in the sewers. They offer Socha money to protect them. Although he is aware that helping a Jew could mean immediate execution for him and his family, Socha sees this as easy cash and they strike a deal. One of the group, Mundek Margulies (Benno Fürmann), a con man who hides deep reserves of courage under a breezy manner, deeply distrusts Socha. Nevertheless, when the Nazis strike, Socha helps the Jews, including two young children, escape into the sewers.
Socha’s challenges are just beginning, as he tries to stay one step ahead of Bortnik’s growing suspicions. Before long, his fragile tightrope begins to fray. His charges start to crack under the immense strain of life underground. Socha weighs the money he is receiving against the threat of certain death to himself and his family. Buckling under the pressure, he abandons them. However, powerful circumstances intervene. Socha saves Mundek’s life by helping him kill a German soldier. Then, stumbling upon the two children wandering lost and dazed in the sewers, he realizes that he cannot desert these people.
Inevitably the Jews’ money runs out. But now there is no turning back. Socha buys them food with his own money, moving them from one chamber to another, protecting them as the war grinds on and Bortnik gets ever closer to exposing him. Then catastrophe. A devastating flash flood fills the sewers. Bortnik realizes that his friend has indeed betrayed him. And Socha is forced into one final, desperate act of courage.
“To give the highest recommendation to a Holocaust movie is to anticipate a certain resistance in the reader. Such resistance is understandable. One might think that years and years of seeing Holocaust movies would create an immunity, a point at which you can feel no more. But in fact, it works the other way. The more you see, the worse it gets. But In Darkness is an extraordinary movie, and somehow good art creates its own uplift. This Agnieszka Holland film rises to its subject, so that the overall experience of it is far from dispiriting.” (Mick La Salle, San Francisco Chronicle)