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In Darkness

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Not many films open with a dedication to Marek Edelman, the recently deceased Polish resistance fighter who led the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It is in the spirit of Edelman’s heroism that screenwriter David F. Shamoon teamed up with directors Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik to make In Darkness, a film about individual defiance in the face of barbarism.

Based on a true story chronicled in Robert Marshall’s Sewers of Lvov, In Darkness is set in occupied Poland. It follows Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), a sewer inspector in Lwów who pulls petty crime jobs on the side to feed his family. When the German army liquidates the Lvov ghetto, Leopold finds a group of Jewish people desperate to escape with their lives, and he has no problem assisting them – for the right price.

And so begins mission impossible: operating as the lifeline for a dozen people without anyone catching on. The daily tasks of smuggling food, medicine and clothes down into the rat-infested sewer hideout become a daily ordeal when Leopold is scrutinised by neighbors, shopkeepers and family friends who are all eager to cash in on the Nazi’s reward for dobbing in hidden Jews and those who harbor them.

What begins as a crude business transaction gradually develops into a humanistic bond as Leopold begins to question his own beliefs, values and morality. The values of those in the sewers are also brought into question – a marital affair, food squabbles, and a secret pregnancy all cause inevitable rifts within the group. The portrayal of these characters as flawed makes them relatable and it is this honesty that distinguishes In Darkness from other films of a similar ilk.

Due to its subject matter, In Darkness has been compared to Spielberg’s masterpiece Schindler’s List. If you enter the cinema expecting a repeat of the latter, you’ll be disappointed. Unlike Spielberg’s bird’s eye view of the Holocaust, In Darkness is in contrast a localised and personal account of the Holocaust through the eyes of an ordinary citizen and is much simpler than its critically acclaimed predecessor.

In Darkness is a claustrophobic yet moving tribute to the human spirit. The glimpses of hope scattered throughout this grayscale film are welcome breaths of fresh air from the subterranean hell which our characters adopt as their home. The contrast between life on the residential streets of Lwów and the battle for survival that takes place meters below the surface is a powerful one that will remain with audiences well after the final credits roll.

In Darkness is now showing at Cinema Nova.
For tickets and times visit cinemanova.com.au.


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