Rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity and language.
Starring Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader, Herbert Knaup, Marcin Bosak, Krzysztof Skonieczny, Milla Bankowicz, Oliwer Stanczak, Kinga Preis, Weronika Rosati, Alexandre Levit, Frank-Michael Köbe, Joachim Paul Assböck.
Written by David F. Shamoon, based on the book by Robert Marshall.
Directed by Agnieszka Holland.
World War II seems to provide an endless supply of material for cinema. Some of the movies are heroic, romantic and inspiring in nature, while many others tend to glorify the violent battles. In the past two decades, a handful of films have successfully depicted acts of heroism in the face of extreme evil. In Darkness, the true story of Leopold Socha's rescue of a dozen Jews during World War II is the latest film to do this. It was nominated for best foreign film in the most recent Academy Awards.
Robert Wieckiewicz plays Socha, a sewer worker and part time thief during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Socha has no love for the Jews, but can't let them die when he and a co-worker discover that a handful of them have burrowed into the sewers from the town's ghetto. At first Socha demands that the Jews pay him cash for their protection. Socha continues to protect and move to safer chasms of the sewers, even as Nazis offer bounties for them, and threaten death to anyone who harbors them.
Socha grows tired of his project and the prospect that he could lose his life and his family should he be discovered. His troubles are compounded by the behavior of the Jews themselves, who at times become frustrated with their situation and even turn on each other.
As the end of the Nazi occupation grows near, Socha must risk even more to protect the Jews.
While In Darkness is considered a "true story," there are obvious liberties taken with dialogue and a few characters in the film. Much like similar films such as Schindler's List, the message of standing up to the inhuman machine of Nazism sometimes requires a summation, which may or may not have happened. These small changes can be forgiven, since In Darkness takes a subtle approach to Socha's epiphany about the worth of souls. Having researched the story a little, I can say that the writer and director got it mostly right, and that's good news, since the story of "Socha's Jews" is truly inspirational.
Were In Darkness not filmed in Polish (with English subtitles), and it starred a few big-name actors, it might have been nominated for Best Picture, and might have possibly won, considering the competition. It deserves to be held in the same regard as Schindler's List, The Pianist, and others as an inspiring tale of humanity in the midst of extreme evil of World War II.
Wieckiewicz's performance is outstanding, and beautifully portrays the man's struggle between self-preservation and moral imperative.
In Darkness is appropriately rated R for some disturbing scenes of war and genocide, but also for some sexuality that is not appropriate for children.