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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schindler's List in the Sewers...
Based on true events which took place in the Polish city of Luvov in WW2, this gruelling arthouse film revisits the emotional and factual territory familiar from Anne Frank's diary and Schindler's List. It seeks out rare fragments of human integrity and benevolence which have been all but extinguished under the Nazi boot in occupied territory. It is not a nice film, and...
Published on 5 July 2012 by Rowena Hoseason

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2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Give it away it had subtitles.
Published 6 hours ago by John Singleton


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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schindler's List in the Sewers..., 5 July 2012
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
Based on true events which took place in the Polish city of Luvov in WW2, this gruelling arthouse film revisits the emotional and factual territory familiar from Anne Frank's diary and Schindler's List. It seeks out rare fragments of human integrity and benevolence which have been all but extinguished under the Nazi boot in occupied territory. It is not a nice film, and the story is frighteningly familiar.
When the Jewish ghetto in the city is liquidated, and the people are either shot on the spot or shipped to a labour camp, a group of Jews flee into the city's sewers. A neer-do-well sewer worker (who moonlights as a looter) discovers them and strikes a bargain: he'll feed and find a safe haven in the rat-infested, stinking hellhole for a dozen of them. And they must pay him to stay alive.
So begins an appalling underground incarceration which lasts for over a year and which rasps away every aspect of sophistication from the disparate group. At first the sight of a rat is enough to cause shrieking hysterics. Later, the children pluck the animals from their shoulders without a second thought. Yet despite the relentless tension and misery, the majority of the refugees retain their better qualities: on the whole they seek to protect, to nurture and to survive as a unit. They may indeed be starving in darkness, but their lives are not without light.

Although 'In Darkness' makes for stressful and occasionally grim viewing, it is not without its lighter moments of humour and blackly comic insight. In particular the scenes between Socha, the sewer worker who turns out to be the Jews' saviour, and his wife are entirely life-affirming. Acts of momentous bravery pass become almost unnoticed, when the most basic act of procuring food might reveal the secret and condemn another dozen lives.
There are also some heart-stopping segments where the Ukrainian occupying force or Nazi officers come close to discovering the truth. And the film throughout is punctuated with explicit violence, nudity, death and sex, handled in an entirely matter of fact manner. Anyone could be killed at any time: that's exactly how it was. And the film's portrayal of that fact shockingly stark.
This isn't a comfortable film to kick back and watch for relaxation. It reflects the grim determination of the protagonists to keep on living against all odds and inhuman cruelty. The filming and acting are so accomplished that they scarcely intruded into the audience's consciousness, we were so wrapped up with the fate of the hidden and their protector.
You're guaranteed an emotionally-charged encounter, if not an exactly enjoyable evening.
9/10
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Polish Tale of Surviving the Nazi occupation., 18 July 2012
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
This is based on the true story of Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) who during war torn Poland worked as a sewer inspector in the Polish town of Lvov (it is now Ukrainian called Lviv). He supplemented his income by burglarising houses and selling the goods on the black market - this included many former houses of the Jews that had been sent to the ghettos or worse.

Then the Nazis come to take everyone, the Jews have anticipated this and had already seen the sewer as a sort of refuge. Socha and his accomplice have already seen this as a possible way to make money, so they strike a bargain with the Jews that in return for payment that they will be looked after. What started out as a money making scheme soon becomes something more for Socha as he sees the terrible events unfold as the war staggers to its ultimate conclusion. We also get to see the brutal effects of even `casual collaboration' and the arbitrary `justice' meted out by the occupiers.

This is a Polish, German and Canadian co production and is in Polish, German, Yiddish and Ukrainian so obviously is sub titled, but this should not put you off. All of the performances are compelling and the tension and fear is palpable through out. The creeping madness of being shut in a sewer for months is not covered up and the filth is omnipresent. One can only begin to imagine how horrific it must have been. Socha and his family were named as "Righteous among the Nations" by Yad Vashem in Israel for their efforts.

This is not a war film in the normal sense but is a tale of true heroism and suffering that is caused by war and is a brilliant compliment to the many new films that are being made about the struggles of ordinary people caught up in a war they did not understand and showing extraordinary ability to overcome the situations they are forced in - highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When Having a Conscience can be Dangerous., 29 Aug 2012
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
It is not every day that you see a performance so powerful that it can carry a film alone. In this case the film did not require much carrying. Robert Wieckiewicz plays the true character Leopold Socha a thief and burglar, skilled in the life of a sewer rat' who hides a group of jews for 14 months in the sewers under Nazi-occupied Lvov.(former Poland) His virtuoso portrayal of a rogue who develops a heart is up there with the brilliant performance of Karl Markovics in that fine film "The Counterfeiters", as Salomon Sorowitsch the concentration camp forger who also dangerously finds he has a well hidden heart. Neither film contains the rather false cloying, feelgood sentimentality that flawed Spielberg's "Schindlers List". This can make for tough viewing at times, but is always compelling, despite the fact that much footage is shot in the darkness of the sewers, or wherever it was!

Despite the sombre nature of the film it is actually more upbeat than Andrej Wajda's 1957 film "Kanal", where a group of Polish soldiers and guerillas take to the sewers after the heroic but doomed Warsaw uprising of 1944. That film contained few rays of future hope. Director Agnieszka Holland, who has been around for a while now, directs with just the right balance of horror and fear. The gradual awakening of a conscience in Socha is believable and well handled. Living in appalling conditions with the ever present threat of capture and immediate death must have been a nightmarish existence which she captures perfectly. The group has the inevitable arguments, as any group would in such claustrophobic circumstances. My favourite scene was when Socha's innocent daughter almost gives him away to one of the jew hunters. It was one of those hand over the face moments. Another scene of a childbirth in the depths of the sewers also makes you wince! There have been a lot of holocaust films made in recent years and this is certainly one of the better ones. But if you really want the most compelling work on the holocaust then you have to watch Claude Lanzmann's definitive documentary "Shoah". It is very very long, but you will be a better person for having watched it! Trust me on that one!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars doesn't spare us the brutal events of war, 17 July 2012
By 
Richard J. Brzostek (New England, USA) - See all my reviews
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The challenges that we face in life today are put into perspective when compared to what people endured during World War II. Stories about the holocaust are painful yet amazing in the sense that they shows us the strength in people that has no rival. In Darkness (W ciemnosci), directed by Agnieszka Holland, is the true story of a sewer worker that saves the lives of a group of Jews. Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) is a Pole living in Lwow (now called Lviv and part of Ukraine) in Nazi occupied Poland. He doesn't go out of his way to become a hero, but rather he stumbles on the opportunity to make money hiding Jews in the sewers he knows so well.

Lwow has a rich history for both Poles and Jews that spans many centuries (while today both of these groups are only small minorities), with a mix of ethnicities, including Ukrainians, coexisting peacefully before the war. With the conflict running its course, self-interest and survival are the two primary motivations most people are left with. Leopold risks not only his own life, but also that of his entire family, by assisting the survival of anyone Jewish. The Germans meted out a quick punishment of death to the Poles who tired any heroics. Both the group of Jews and Leopold have some reservations and distrust in each other, but as time goes on, their business arrangement turns into much more.

In Darkness doesn't spare us the brutal events of war and will be quite shocking for some viewers. I would say the film is inappropriate for children for a number of reasons and the squeamish may also find it hard to watch. However, the violence isn't gratuitous, as it only adds to what really went on. The realism is also enhanced by the fact that several languages are used in this movie, including Polish, Yiddish, German and Ukrainian.

No other subject has received as much attention in Polish cinema as World War II. Some say these films acted as a catharsis for the whole country after it witnessed so many horrors. While this still may hold true, these movies also educate their audiences to history many are unaware of. While In Darkness doesn't try to overload us with historical facts or dates, as it subtlety informs us of how life was like in Nazi occupied Poland. We get a good look at the chaotic and brutal way of life people had to endue and come away with an appreciation that things should never be that away again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good film, 20 Oct 2012
By 
J. Bryan - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
I originally saw an article about this film when it was being shown in the cinemas. I waited until it came out on DVD and then ordered it. We (my husband and I) were not disappointed - a very interesting and moving film about the Jews in the second world war. There were sub-titles but they were easy to follow and didn't spoil the film. I recommend it but it is as you would expect, sad, horrifying, moving.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good film giving more than sadness, 20 Sep 2012
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This is a film about Jews surviving in the sewers of the Lvow, ofcourse it is heavy going and depressing, but worth watching for paying tribute to those people. But it is not only that!! It is worth watching for the characters, extremely well acted, with interesting characters from Lvow from that period - Poles and Jews, Good portrait of Lvow from that period.It shows Jews and Poles as they were - warts et al, good and bad sides, feels very authentic. I highly recommend it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beneath the city streets, 21 Nov 2012
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
This remarkable film is based on the true story told by Robert Marshall in his book In The Sewers Of Lvov (but before publication of The Girl In The Green Sweater by Krystina Chiger, one of the survivors of these events).
Agnieszka Holland tends to make fims about people in extremis and this is certainly no exception. It is set in the then-Polish city of Lvov (once Lemberg, now Lviv in Ukraine, it has been the most schizophrenic of cities in its long history) and, put simply, concerns a sewer inspector who, in the last year of the war, hides a small group of Jewish men, women and children in the labyrinth of sewers under the city`s streets.
What sets this apart from many other films set during those baleful times is its lack of sensationalism, and the unforced authenticity of the performances. It shares a certain tone of voice, and of course setting, with Polanski`s The Pianist, but is less consciously `artistic` than that fine film, as well as being, on the whole, better acted. The events of In Darkness are dramatic enough and engrossing enough not to need unnecessary elaboration.
All the performances, without exception, are virtually flawless, so I won`t pick out any for special praise, only to mention that the various children are portrayed wonderfully well, which must be mainly due to the director`s tact and taste.
There can not be too many films concerning the Holocaust when they are as good as this one. We (and by `we`, I suppose I mean the generations to come) must never be allowed to ignore or forget the almost unimaginable sufferings of those years, and the part played by too many in turning a blind eye to what was happening under their noses to the Jewish people, by not only the Nazis but those doing their will, however under duress they often were.
Beautifully acted, tautly directed, sensitively shot and well-scripted, only a heart of stone will fail to be moved. The final moments are cathartic, yet strangely ambivalent when one realises how few were in fact saved and how many suffered - in one case as an indirect result of that sewerage worker`s initially reluctant kindness. But then, millions of Jews and other `undesirables` - or simply those in the wrong place - died, while all too few of them survived those horrors.
Recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wartime Story of An Unlikely Light in the Darkness., 15 July 2012
This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
Full marks to Agnieszka Holland's story of survival and rescue in German occupied Lwow (Now Lviv, but then still a major Polish city). The principal characters are neither all good nor all bad, but are presented with moral choices that they can take in their bleak circumstances. The film doesn't judge the characters, but rather follows their agonsing choice making. These choices can be for good or bad, to survive or perish, to betray or conceal.

When the German's liquidate the Lwow ghetto some of it's inhabitants manage to break into the city sewers to try to escape. They are stumbled upon by Socha a sewer worker who moonlights as a petty thief and looter and knows a chance to make some money when it presents itself. Socha, a devout Catholic is looking for an easy profit from what he considers to be wealthy runaways from the ghetto: A bargain is desperately struck. Socha will help the group of Jewish adults with their children and their baggage of problems in return for payment. The group bickers, squabbles and makes up between themselves and Socha as problems and crises arise and need to be challenged and overcome.

The film's strengh is in its attention to visual detail and the interaction between the characters. You can step into wartime Lwow. Wartime Lwow is cobbled and bleak. It's colour is grey (as are the characters). The sewers are cramped, flow with sewage and have mist swirling above the rank water. the light below street level is so poor you feel you need to squint to be able to see any detail on the screen, while that above is almost blinding at times. The characters speak German, Yiddish, Ukranian and Polish.

This is a very human film and dwells on the emotional struggles of the participants. The difficulty Socha faces with what has become carrying out his obligation; the fears of himself and his wife and child and also of "his" Jews. The draconian punishments the German's inflicted on the Poles for the least sign of resistance is brought home to Soccha when after killing a guard his former partner is one of the Poles he sees hanging on the gallows, executed in reprisal - one of fifty Poles murdered for in reprisal for a single German.

The off hand cruelty the Jews had to endure from the German's is also shown matter of factly rather than with any drama. The scene with Jewish women being chased screaming through the woods to the execution ground is particularly disturbing.

An Oscar nomination for Agnieszka Holland is well deserved for this sad, bleak and yet ultimately uplifting film.

I also find the film is similar to Andrzej Wajda's Kanal Kanal (Canal) [Region 2] [import] which deals with the fate of a Polish partisan group in the sewers of Warsaw. Agnieszka Holland worked with Wajda in the fifties when Kanal was made. The bleakness of the partisan's fate as it unfolds in the sewers is similar in some ways to the existance of Socha and the Jews below ground.

Also for further reading I would advise Waiting to be Heard: The Polish Christian Experience Under Nazi and Stalinist Oppression 1939-1955
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true story of humanity and courage, 10 Feb 2014
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This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
This is a compelling film of a true story. Excellent casting. The actors bring to life the fear and tension of being discovered at any moment, having to adjust to a life in the sewers with the stench and rats and always with the will to live. The courage and heroism of Leopold Socha shine throughout. This film will make you cry but there are lighter moments. This is a film not to missed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most ordinary people are capable of the most extraordinary things, 15 Aug 2012
By 
Lance Grundy (Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
When Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, became allies and invaded Poland in 1939 they divided the country into two zones. There was a German-occupied zone in the west and a Soviet-occupied zone in the east. The Polish city of Lwow [now Lviv in Ukraine] was situated in the Soviet-occupied eastern zone and was, at that time, home to around 120,000 Jews. Over the following 18 months the number of Jews living in the city would swell to more than 220,000 as tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fled from the Nazi-occupied western part of Poland to the relative safety of the Soviet-occupied east. However, on 22 June 1941 Germany reneged on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, declared war on the Soviet Union and launched Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of its former ally. The Germans reached Lwow on 30 June 1941 and immediately set about persecuting the city's Jewish population. At the end of 1941 the Germans established the Lwow Ghetto and all Jews living in the city were forced to move there. By June 1943 the Jews in the ghetto had outlived their usefulness to the Nazis and the ghetto was liquidated. The residents were rounded up, herded onto cattle trucks and sent to their deaths in the Belzec extermination camp. However, a small number of Jews managed to escape into the city's sewers and, with the help of a Polish sewer worker and petty criminal called Leopold Socha, they were able to survive there until the city was liberated by the Red Army on 26 July 1944. This film tells the true story of Leopold Socha and the Jews he saved.

A Polish-German co-production, in Polish with English subtitles, "In Darkness" is an inspiring dramatisation of real events which reminds us that the most ordinary people are capable of the most extraordinary things. The acting is of a high standard and I thought Robert Wieckiewicz was particularly well-cast as the gruff sewer man Leopold Socha [he's soon to play another Polish working-class hero, Lech Walesa, in Andrzej Wajda's long-awaited film "Walesa" about Solidarity and the fall of communism] and he manages to make the character's transition from a rough-as-they-come burglar to a saviour of the downtrodden and oppressed, seem credible. Wieckiewicz's supporting cast of German and Polish actors also work hard to portray the stresses, strains and moral ambiguities of life in wartime. Themes of self-preservation, collaboration, risk, courage, bravery, trust, betrayal, exploitation and, ultimately, redemption are all covered here in a subtle and balanced way. It's probably also worth noting that with so much of the film taking place underground, the lighting on the set also manages to strike the right balance between effectively conveying the claustrophobic darkness of the sewers and allowing the viewer to be able to see what is actually going on. Fortunately, "In Darkness" has not been filmed in darkness - which would have ruined an otherwise excellent production.

I'd recommend this film to anyone interested in Eastern European, Second World War or Holocaust history. Like many films 'based' on true stories it no doubt takes some liberties with the facts in the name of dramatisation. However, it is still a worthwhile testament to the actions of Leopold Socha and the Jews he saved in wartime Lwow. Sadly, Socha himself was killed in a road accident just months after the war ended. One day while out cycling with his daughter an out of control Red Army truck came hurtling towards them. Socha steered his bicycle into his daughter's path to knock her out of the way. He was killed, she survived. Anyone interested in finding out more about this man, the Jews he saved or life in Lwow under Soviet and Nazi occupation, may be interested to know that the only surviving member of 'Socha's Jews', Krystyna Chiger, has written a memoir about her experiences called The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow.
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In Darkness [DVD]
In Darkness [DVD] by Agnieszka Holland (DVD - 2012)
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