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In Darkness (Blu-ray Review)

5 Jun, 2012 By: Billy Gil

Street 6/12/12
Sony Pictures
Box Office $1.04 million
$30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity and language.
In Polish, German, Yiddish and Ukranian with English subtitles.

Agniezska Holland’s In Darkness, about a group of Polish Jews forced to live in the sewers when the Nazis invade during World War II, is a harrowing film punctuated by moments of light that feel all the greater given the film’s grim premise.

In the Polish city of Lwów, Leopold Socha is a sewer worker and petty thief. When he comes across a group of refugees after the city’s ghetto has mostly been leveled by the Nazi army, he takes them into the sewer, where they live for about a year, in exchange for pay to Socha and his partner.

However, the pay Socha receives barely covers the expenses for feeding the group. The stress becomes great at home, too, with Socha’s wife only just tolerating the proceedings, and with an old friend, now a Nazi, snooping around.

In the sewers, supplies and morale run low, while run-of-the-mill soap opera drama takes place even in the unlikeliest of places, including an affair and a secret pregnancy.

Holland’s film succeeds through making the characters’ drama feel as if it is your own. We sympathize with Socha, who makes a meager living for himself, his wife and his daughter, and who could be arrested or killed for helping the Jews. His dilemma is both moral and real, and it makes the viewer question what they would do in such a situation.

Meanwhile, the characters’ plight in the sewer is the stuff of horror films, with rats and a putrid stench, but it feels all too real — the film is based on real events, as told in the book In the Sewers of Lvov.

The film’s lighter moments, such as when Socha takes a young girl to the surface to see the sun, feel like a mammoth-sized breath of fresh air in a film such as this. After watching, you may feel that you want to take a shower, kiss your loved ones and appreciate the life you have.

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