In Darkness, directed by Agnieszka Holland is a film that will stay with me, as both Schindler’s List and The Pianist have.
For me, it is one of those films that depicts the Holocaust without mincing words or cutting short the visual impact of the horrific situations that those who were victims experienced.
In Darkness is a true story based on Leopold Socha, who was a sewer worker in Lvov, Poland. He was a small time thief, and a conniver living during World War II, when Lvov was occupied by the Nazis.
The majority of In Darkness takes place in the sewers of Lvov, within the darkness, the stench, the vermin (rats, etc.), and within the confines of a tunnel like atmosphere. This lends to the harsh feeling of the anxiety, emotional suffocation, lack of sunlight and lack of freedom that the Jewish individuals suffered through, in the dire situation they were in.
Leopold Socha starts out by bringing the Jews in the sewers bits of food, and other assorted items, that help them to survive, for money. As the film goes on we begin to see a change in him, and see his attitude towards the Jews slowly begin to change. We see his own journey towards recognition of the Jews as people, much like himself, despite the religious differences between them. We see him begin to understand the humaneness of the situation, and see him comprehend that he holds their lives in his hands.
Once he comes to understand this concept, there is no turning back for him. As far as he was concerned, they were his Jews, and he referred to them as “my Jews”. No matter the expense or the trouble he incurred, he did it willingly, from the moment of understanding until liberation. No more money exchanged hands.
Of course, his life and his family’s life was at risk for his actions. He did jeopardize himself and his family, but felt he had no choice, it was something he had to do, because of his humanistic realizations.
The Jews spent fourteen months within the sewer system, dredged with muck and mire, constant wetness and cramped quarters. Imagine… Once they were liberated, Socha threw them a welcoming party, with cake, etc. He was delighted for them, and treated them like family.
In my opinion, the filming within the sewers fosters and intensifies the focus on his emotional and human awakening. It also magnifies and depicts the dire situation the Jews were in quite dramatically, as we see very little lightness throughout the film.
You can read about Leopold Socha at Yad Vashem. He and his wife have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
In Darkness is not a film for the weak-stomach. But, I highly recommend it. It puts a new light and face on Holocaust survival, and how rescuers played an important role in the lives of some Jews.
February 23, 2012 – 30 Sh’vat, 5772
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