Today theaters experience a new film about the Holocaust, aptly named In Darkness. Acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland brings us the story of Leopold Socha, a Polish sewer worker and unexpected hero. The film opens in Lviv, Poland, where the Nazis are purging the ghettos of the Jewish families living there. However, the film’s first scene features Socha and his friend humorously burglarizing a house. This man appears to be an unlikely candidate for altruism. The film then refocuses on the Chinger family who manage to escape into the sewer below their house. They are discovered by Socha and his friend while working in the city’s sewer system.

The film’s best feature is the extreme humanization of its characters. Socha is a truly human man. He is greedy, pragmatic, and self-centered. He also cares deeply about his family and eventually discovers the truth about right and wrong. The film traces his growth as a husband, father, and protector of the ten he saves. Socha begins the experience in a selfish transaction and concludes it as a loving hero. The performance by actor Robert Wieckiewicz is truly stunning. His depiction makes it difficult for the audience to dislike him, even during his most self-centered moments. His inner morality and sense of duty to his family also balance his character.

The film’s story is truly realistic. Socha is forced to abandon much of the original group due to the large nature of the group. Though this is heartbreaking, the film carefully ensures the reliability of the subject matter. The conditions in the sewer are notably terrible, and the group is forced to adapt to life underground. Truly human tension arises in the close quarters. People are betrayed and human sexuality abounds.

In Darkness illustrates the sheer physical nature of the Holocaust. The film is graphic in several ways, but this quality is essential to the work’s intention. It is a masterful work in terms of illustration, but it does leave the audience with a strange feeling. The film blends malnourishment, rancid conditions, and sexuality in a startling and fresh, but completely unsettling way. Its uplifting and bright ending feels out of place in a film about the Holocaust, but it is beautiful. The final scene is absolutely breathtaking. Holland has brought us a jewel, and we are left to consider what she has given us. In Darkness has been nominated as “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 2012 Academy Awards. If you see it, expect to be surprised. Do keep in mind its R Rating.


Culture 'In Darkness' Shines