In Darkness (2011 film)
UK cinematic poster
|Directed by||Agnieszka Holland|
|Produced by||Andrzej Besztak
|Written by||David F. Shamoon (based on In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall)|
|Music by||Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz|
|Edited by||Mike Czarnecki|
Zebra Films, Schmidtz Katze Filmkollektiv, the Film Works
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Country||Poland, Germany, Canada|
|Language||Polish, German, Yiddish, Ukrainian|
In Darkness (Polish: W ciemności) is a 2011 Polish drama film written by David F. Shamoon and directed by Agnieszka Holland. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards.
Based on true events during German occupation of Poland, the film tells a story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker in the then Polish city of Lwów (taken after World War II by the Soviet Union, and now part of Ukraine), who used his knowledge of the city's sewer system to shelter a group of Jews escaped from Lwów's ghetto during the German extermination of Jewish people.
In Darkness is a dramatization of a factual rescue of Jewish refugees during World War II in German-occupied city Lwów (Lemberg in German, L'viv in Ukrainian). For over a year, a Polish Catholic sewer maintenance worker and burglar, Leopold Socha – along with his friend and coworker Szczepek Wróblewski – hid and cared for a group of hunted Polish Jews who had escaped the massacres and deportations during the liquidation of the Lwów Ghetto, at first helping them in exchange for daily payment, but then continuing to do so long after the Jews' money had run out and aiding them had become ever more dangerous.
The Jewish ghetto had been established in 1941, and the Nazis decided to liquidate it in June 1943. The Soviets took over Lwów city in July 1944, by which point Socha's small band made up approximately 10 of the less than 1,000 surviving Jews in the city. Socha's and Wróblewski's actions, and those of their wives, would earn them all recognition as Righteous Among the Nations recipients.
- Robert Więckiewicz as Leopold Socha
- Benno Fürmann as Mundek Margulies
- Agnieszka Grochowska as Klara Keller
- Maria Schrader as Paulina Chiger
- Herbert Knaup as Ignacy Chiger
- Kinga Preis as Wanda Socha
- Krzysztof Skonieczny as Szczepek Wróblewski
- Julia Kijowska as Chaja
- Marcin Bosak as Janek Weiss
- Jerzy Walczak as Jakob Berestycki
- Michał Żurawski as Bortnik
- Piotr Głowacki − Icek Frenkiel
- Zofia Pieczyńska as Stefcia Socha
- Etel Szyc as Szona Grossman
- Andrzej Mastalerz as Sawicki
- Ida Łozińska as Rachela Grossman
- Laura Lo Zito as Irena
- Alexander Levit as Kovalev
- Frank Köbe as Gustav Wilhaus
Production and release
Dedicated to Marek Edelman, the film was a Polish-German-Canadian coproduction, with a screenplay by Canadian writer David F. Shamoon. In Darkness is based on the book In the Sewers of Lvov (1990) by Robert Marshall. The only living survivor of the group, Krystyna Chiger, has written a memoir of her experience, The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow (2008), which was published too late to be a source. It was the first full-length film shown at the 23rd Polish Film Festival in America in Chicago on the Opening Night Gala.
A review by Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called it "a harrowing nail-biter of a movie". Ella Taylor of NPR wrote In Darkness "satisfies for the intensity of the performances and for the artful contrasting of life on the teeming streets of L'viv with life and death in the dim, rat-infested sewers", adding that it "is often a thrilling adventure picture — as if Anne Frank had found an Inglourious Basterd to help her make The Great Escape". Ty Burr of The Boston Globe called the film "a harrowing Holocaust tale, but one that speaks to humankind's capacity to endure, to fight on in the face of terrible cruelty", adding that Holland "elicits taut performances from a strong cast". David Denby of The New Yorker called it "the most volatile that Holland has directed. With a distinguished, hardworking cast of German and Polish actors", noting that "honesty is the movie's greatest strength". Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said this "harrowing, engrossing, claustrophobic and sometimes literally hard to watch […] robust, arduous drama is more ironic and multi-faceted than most such tales and should be well received by the considerable art house audience worldwide partial to the subject matter". Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal said this "brave epic" film's "suspense, derived from a true story, is excruciating and inspiring in equal measure". A. O. Scott of The New York Times called In Darkness "suspenseful, horrifying and at times intensely moving […] touching, warm and dramatically satisfying". On the other hand, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times dismissed the film as redundant and inferior to Schindler's List which was "more entertaining" in his view. Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice claimed that "Holland does skirt the ethical entrapment of Schindler's List (over-lionizing the Aryan rescuer)", adding: "It's not fair, but there it is: We've been here before." The German authorities in occupied Poland referred to non-Jews, including Poles, as Aryans; colloquially, documents proving one's non-Jewish identity were called "Aryan papers", and the areas prohibited to Jews were known collectively as "the Aryan side". the Polish districts of citi David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote: "In outline, In Darkness is a standard conversion melodrama, but little within those parameters is easy. The darkness lingers into the light." Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle called it "an extraordinary movie, and somehow good art […] a gripping piece of history and also an exploration into the mysteries of the human soul", and gave it "the highest recommendation".
In Darkness was nominated for the best foreign language film at the 84th Academy Awards. Nominated alongside the official Canadian nominee Monsieur Lazhar, it attracted attention in the country for marking the first time in the history of cinema of Canada that had its two films nominated for the best foreign language film Oscar in the same year. At the International Valladolid Film Festival (SEMINCI), Agnieszka Holland won the award for best director. The film garnered several award nominations at the 32nd Genie Awards, including best adapted screenplay for Shamoon. It also received the Grand Prix at the 7th Batumi International Art-house Film Festival.
- Europa Europa, Agnieszka Holland's 1990 film about Solomon Perel
- Rescue of Jews by Poles during the Shoah
- Polish Righteous among the Nations
- List of submissions to the 84th Academy Awards for best foreign language film
- List of Polish submissions for the Academy Award for best foreign language film
- The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow, a memoir by one of those Mr. Socha saved
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- Gunnar S. Paulsson, Secret City: The hidden Jews of Warsaw 1940-1945 (Yale 2002)
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