Out of the Dark
Film Review: "IN DARKNESS"
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 2, 2012 10:03
Agnieszka Holland is a Polish director who, born in 1948 in a struggling-to-rebuild Poland, grew up in the gritty aftermath of World War II. Having lived around that atmosphere, I feel she's the clear-cut choice to make a movie about the realness of the Holocaust - as compared to an all-American Jewish director like Steven Spielberg. You're not watching "SCHINDLER'S LIST" here - this is a REAL Holocaust movie. It's bitterly real, utterly disturbing and atrociously disgusting, but it also actually ISN'T set at a concentration camp.
"IN DARKNESS" takes place in a World War II-infested Poland, where the Nazi soldiers are making their rounds around the overpopulated Jewish ghettos, bringing the inhabitants to concentration camps. Of course the Nazis eventually arrive in the rather small Lviv, and a group of men, women and children systematically make their way down into a sewer to avoid being captured. The ensuing 14 months that they then spend inside the sewer are literally "in darkness."
In order to survive in such a horrible place, they obviously needed to receive a significant amount of help from someone. This comes from a local Polish resident and sewer inspector whom they call Poldek (played by Robert Wieckiewicz), who originally helps the small group by providing them with food, clothing and fresh water in the sewer for hefty fees. Eventually, though, the Jewish can no longer afford to pay him. When he is confronted by the fact that he is putting both his family and himself in danger by trying to keep these people alive, he has to decide to do what is seemingly better for himself and his family or what is morally right.
The film contains great sets and set pieces. The vibe that comes from the stone streets and buildings screams authenticity, as do the toys the children are playing with while they are stuck in the sewer. The sewers themselves were so dark and moldy looking that you couldn't even imagine rats living in them with the smell that is portrayed just by the moving pictures on the screen – never mind human beings. It also shows the carelessness and relentlessness of the way the Nazi soldiers carried themselves, shooting off guns and blowing up buildings with a completely neutral sense of expression. The acting by all of the Nazi soldiers is very good – however small their roles are. There is even a birth scene that is so disturbingly real that it might scare you of the idea of having a child. The only real question I have about the movie is the need for including "An der Schönen blauen Donau" (made famous in Kubrick's "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY") in the soundtrack. The film was as perfectly bland as it needed to be without an overbearing, epically classical score played with it.
The overall message of the film is that God will punish the greedy, an exact statement said by one of the survivors in the sewer. This relates to both the fact that the Nazis are greedy in trying to take over the world and that Poldek is greedy by accepting money to do something that should be an obligation to everyone – saving lives. That warm message being conveyed from me to you, this film is not for everybody. It may come off as extremely offensive and disgusting, but that is what makes it so real.