Tuesday, 30 April 2013

In Darkness (4½ Stars)

This Polish film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards. It's the true story of Leopold Socha, a Polish sewer worker, from 1943 to 1944. He lived in the city of Lwow (now called Lviv) during the German occupation. He was one of the people who profited from the German presence. He wasn't politically motivated or even a Polish patriot. He was an opportunist who used the German invasion to get rich. He sold goods for extortionate prices to Jews who lived in the Lwow ghetto.

In 1943 Germany decided to clear the ghetto by sending all the Jews to concentration camps. This gave Leopold the opportunity of a lifetime. A rich Jew, Ignacy Chiger, offered him 500 Zloty a day to hide a group of Jews in the sewers. At first Chiger tries to store 20 Jews, but Socha persuades him that it isn't possible to hide and feed more than 10 Jews without fear of them being discovered. The months pass by and Chiger runs out of money, but by that time Socha has found compassion and he continues to hide the Jews for free. They remain in the sewers until the Russians "liberate" Lwow in 1944. (Russia annexed eastern Poland including Lwow after the war, and the Jews had to flee to escape Russian persecution).

This is a dark claustrophopic film, obviously. At times it's chaotic, with people talking in a mix of German, Polish and Russian. The film has been compared with "Schindler's List", an obvious comparison, but "In Darkness" is much more dramatic. It's a lot darker and more morbid than anything Steven Spielberg has ever made. There are no real heroes, everyone is tainted.

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