Oscar reviews: In Darkness brings nightmares to life

by Jason Madanjian / Beacon Staff • February 23, 2012

Web in darkness
Robert Wieckiewiz stars as Leopold Socha.
Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Robert Wieckiewiz stars as Leopold Socha.
Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Agnieszka Holland’s new film, In Darkness, offers a glimpse into a horror few have ever known. The film, based on the book “In The Sewers of Lvov” by Robert Marshall, takes place in Nazi occupied Poland during World War II. Its characters bring that nightmare to life on the screen.

Robert Wieckiewiz stars as Leopold Socha, a part-time thief and sewage worker in the town of Lvov. He faces a moral dilemma when he catches a group of Jewish refugees hiding in the sewers where he works. He considers turning them over for a cash reward, but they offer him what little money they have to keep their secret. Afraid of being found out, Socha keeps himself distanced from the Jews, but eventually bonds with them. He secretly provides them food and supplies, arising the suspicion of his Nazi sympathizing friend.

Wieckiewiz, a popular TV actor in his native Poland, uses his talents to make Socha’s transformation from greedy thief to guardian angel believable. He completely immerses himself in the role of Socha, flaws and all.

Director Holland’s frighteningly claustrophobic camerawork immerses the audience in the action of the film. The audience feels as if they too are living in the sewers for their survival.

Equally impressive are Holland’s team of supporting actors as the Jewish refugees. Their collective performance is gripping and heartbreakingly real. The viewer can smell the stench of the refugees, feel their hunger pains, and see the fear in their eyes.

In Darkness, which garnered a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination for Poland this year, is a harrowingly shot and brilliantly acted film. It’s too bold to say any film could ever capture the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand, but the film does an excellent job of bringing this grim and true story to life on the big screen.