In a perfect world every single story of those individuals who suffered at the hands of the Nazis would get told. Agnieska Holland, who previously directed the Jewish boy hiding among Hitler Youth tale Europa Europa, serves up another round of the Holocaust, In Darkness. This one focuses on the based-on-true events of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief who helped a dozen Jews hide for 14 months in the sewers of the Polish city of Lvov.
The tale is actually far darker than most, and almost completely free of any moments of levity or comic relief. Socha can be seen as a type of Oskar Schindler character, motivated by greed who gradually becomes humanized for his efforts. But Socha never lives the good life of Schindler, and for those under the city it isn't just months In Darkness it is months in hell. This makes it a painfully long 145 minutes, made worse because there have been so many similar stories - anyone who knows the timeline also begins to wait for the liberation and this just drags the film. Yes, we know the characters suffered terribly but it is hard to suffer with them for so long.
David Kempler casts another light on the film in his In Darkness movie review.
The characters may exist In Darkness but the film actually pops with color and clarity at times. Shot digitally and presented in full HD 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio it brings every detail of Lvov to life. The darkness of the sewers, the dirt and grime on the characters as well as the pale skin of those who suffered for months under the ground really seem so real that it is a credit to the art directors. The black levels and shadow details are impressive with little in the way of banding. This dark detail makes the film a bit more claustrophobic.
Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the lossless soundtrack has a stirring quality. The musical scores are understated, which only serves to emphasize the human story. The dialog, which is presented in the native Polish - while including bits of Yiddish, Ukrainian and German - comes through the center channel crystal clear, while ambient sounds create an immersive soundscape. There is a hollow, yet natural effect in the sewers, and while a film set in wartime this one lacks any significant moments of combat - which makes the interludes of gun fire all the more startling.
The Blu-ray offers two main featurettes and each is worth a peek. The main half hour long featurette, An Evening with Agnieska Holland, looks at the making of the film, with an overview on casting, set construction and the usual sort of behind the scenes stuff; while In Light: A Conversation with Agnieszka Holland and Krystyna Chiger is another half hour long featurette where the director met with one of the film's subjects, and the pair discuss the film and the actual experience. In addition there is the theatrical trailer and Sony previews.
It is hard not to view this one without comparing it to Schindler's List or in a way The Pianist, and perhaps this is why In Darkness fails to connect. It isn't so much that these stories have been told - and again every story should get told - but it is just that it seems to have been told so much better. And perhaps it is because so much is In Darkness that it refreshing to come up for some light at the end.
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