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Beneath the city streets,
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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.