In Darkness (15)

Directed by Agnieszka Holland
FACT Picturehouse
16th March - 29th March 2012

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is a harrowing account, based on a true story, of a small group of Polish Jews who endured over 400 days confined to the sewers in the town of Lvov in 1943, as a means to avoid capture by the Nazi occupiers, who had razed to the ground the local jewish ghetto.

One particular aspect of the film which is pleasing is the use of Polish, Yiddish, German and Ukranian languages as a means to provide authencity.

The hero figure in the movie is Leopold Socha (masterfully portrayed by Robert Wieckiewicz) - Oskar Schindler played a somewhat similar rescue act as depicted in Schindler's List.

At first the Catholic sewage inspector - he knows every space in the maze-like and claustrophobic underground tunnels - and second-rate spiv, helped them in their plight purely for financial return.

But their despair deepened at being forced to live in such extreme conditions, amid the shit and piss deposited into the sewers by the population of the town, as the money ran out to pay him for his assistance, he becomes - despite the temptation to turn in Jews to the Germans for a lucrative reward- more compassionate and genuinely concerned about their fate, and in so doing risks his own life and that of his wife and young daughter.

What sustains the film's interest and tension during its 143 minutues duration is the ambivalent and complex character of Socha. His conversion to a man of moral courage is admirable, captured accurately by Holland, who does not sentimentalise him, or indeed the wretched victims who have to survive like trapped rats.

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