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on 16 February 2013
If you like your films to have dramatic truth, this one is for you. The true story told here must have been difficult to translate to the screen, because what these Jews had to undergo as they were hunted like animals by the Nazis is pretty well un-describable.

Despite the tough challenge, "In Darkness" gives us a gripping idea of what it must have been like. Three quarters of the scenes take place in underground tunnels and sewers, a tricky prospect for the cameraman, yet this tense film is a remarkable visual piece of work, and holds the attention from first scene to last.

There is a memorable performance from the actor playing the ordinary character who is drawn into helping these desperate people in their struggle to survive. His conflicts about the right thing to do are well conveyed, and he is totally believable. Over two hours of viewing go so quickly as you are held by this extraordinary story. One of the most vivid films I've seen for a long time- Highly recommended.
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on 6 April 2017
Excellent product and service
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on 23 April 2017
A fascinating story of survival.
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on 12 June 2017
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on 31 March 2017
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on 15 July 2012
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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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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Five stars is supposed to say, "I love it!" but that doesn't seem an appropriate response to a movie about such harrowing events and circumstances. It's hard to shake the notion nowadays -- especially in the age of Pixar and bromances -- of movies as anything but entertainment, but you have to do that as best you can with a film like this. Poldek Socha (Robert Wi'ckiewicz) is no Oskar Schindler, with his wealth and social connections to the Nazis. Socha is a sewer inspector in Lvov, who discovers a group of Jews -- and extended family, in effect -- during an inspection. They have created an entrance to the sewers from their house, and escape into them just as a round-up is beginning in the ghetto. Basically, he allows himself to be bribed by them, but when they run out of money, he doesn't cease to help them. There are risks for him, of course, for the Polish authorities are cooperating with the Nazis and suspect that the sewers are being used. Luckily, they don't suspect Socha -- at least not until it's too late. Visually, the movie does a superb job of creating a sense of the dank filth and claustrophobia of the sewers. There are Hollywood-ish moments -- the big rainstorm that pulls Socha away from his daughter's first communion because he realizes the threat it poses to the Jews is perhaps the most obvious one, and very suspenseful it is. The cost to Socha is suggested powerfully, especially in the wake of his killing of a German soldier, but most engagingly in the representation of the relationship between Socha and his wife, Wanda (Kinga Preis), who instinctively feels for the Jewish victims of the Nazi occupation but is frightened and worried by her husband's growing commitment to them. After the rainstorm, Wanda, angry at Socha's leaving the communion service, walks out -- the house is empty when Socha returns, tired and stressed. The scene between them when she walks in is wonderfully and credibly played, testimony to the way the characters have been represented throughout.

Underground, the early bickering and tensions related to status among the Jews soon gives way to a serious focus on survival. There's a love interest that develops, there are children who get lost, and a baby is born. And if rats in the slimy dark freak you out, prepare to be freaked. As plot elements, some of these might strike the viewer as standard narrative shaping that is perhaps more a matter of convention rather than truth, but visually none of it is glamorized, and such scenes create focuses of empathy that perhaps a more documentary treatment could not manage. The alternations of stoic endurance, near-hysteria, depression, sexual frustration -- it's all there. And in Socha and Wanda, we have characters who just do the right things without theorizing about it -- they just keep on doing, for when they stop to reflect, they tend to tell themselves they're crazy, so they stop reflecting. On the Jews' side, there is a developing of trust with Socha that takes time, and there are interpersonal tensions among themselves that aren't sentimentally resolved in every case. All in all, I found it moving, absorbing, and very well put together by Agnieska Holland. The filming in the sewers, which seeks to do justice to the literal darkness while still letting us see enough, is very well managed. Jolanta Dylewska was the cinematographer and deserves great credit for her work.
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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.
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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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