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In Darkness


Year: 2011 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Agnieszka Holland 
Starring: Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Furmann, Agnieszka Grochowska  
An image from In Darkness

As Poland’s official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards, In Darkness proves to be more than just another re-telling of a Holocaust story. Director Agnieszka Holland has expertly adapted Rob Marshall’s book In the Sewers of Lvov (1990), which details the true story of sewer worker Leopold Socha’s heroic efforts to hide a group of Jewish refugees in the sewers of the Polish city of Lvov during the Second World War. Torn between the temptation to hand the fugitives in for money and the duty to save innocent lives, Socha (played with subtlety and compassion by Robert Wieckiewicz) finds himself struggling to grasp ethical certainties in a war-torn world gone mad.

In Darkness boasts stunning cinematography that flawlessly captures the claustrophobic and dank atmosphere of the sewers and their contrast to the thriving city above, even as it questions which group possesses more freedom: the seemingly liberated citizens living in fear of their neighbours or the oppressed Jews who, despite their desperate fight for survival, are able to rely on each other for support. Holland emphasizes the humanistic aspects of the characters, carefully constructing a portrayal of people so vivid and engaging that we cannot help immersing ourselves into their world. Though the film foregrounds Polish-Jewish relations during the war, its foundation in veracity and realistic characters ensures that the story is a human one, not solely a Polish one.

Essentially, In Darkness offers a moving representation of a true wartime story that accentuates the benevolent and malevolent facets in all of us, encouraging a self-questioning of beliefs, ethics, and what one would ultimately do to survive. It is both a striking example of what the Polish film industry has to offer and a much-needed reaffirmation of the artistic potential of female directors.

Ana Pereira de Souza

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Summer Term (35mm)