Unyielding, almost brutal first hour or so. Then, at some point, the harrowing atmosphere gave way to a more character-focused drama, which is when the film went, for me, from excellent to simply very good; tension began to ease too soon for the film to be as effective as it could/should have been. Gorgeous, evocative lighting and colour palate. 3.75
An unusual view of the Holocaust based on a not explored before phenomenon: the hiding of Jews in the sewer tunnels to escape execution by the Nazis. It's a very realistic and honest portrait. There are flawed characters amongst the survivors, they're human, not just victims, which makes them even more interesting and not 'black and white' characters. The cinematography is beautiful!
Holland provides an appropriately straightforward treatment of a harrowing human experience and, the occasional misstep notwithstanding, largely avoids falling into the trap of sentimentality or crude characterisations. Most impressively, she captures powerfully how, in a world where people are treated worse than animals, the sexual urge instinctually becomes the greatest act of defiance against extermination.
This really didn't work for me. Been wanting to see Holland's films for a while but I thought the direction was quite flat and uninspiring for the most part, and there was something about the way it was shot that didn't quite bring home the horror of the sewer environment in the same way as Kanał so famously did.
"In Darkness" takes place in the sewers under Lvov, where roughly a dozen Polish Jews hid from the Nazis for more than a year. Agneska Holland and cinematographer Jolanta Dylewska successfully bring to screen an oppressive, suffocating, terrifying subterranean world. It's a claustrophobic trip (lit almost entirely by flashlight) that left me with goosebumps!
Convincing as a film but for a couple of gratuitous scenes, with a script that keeps the story going and good direction and photography. Historically, a failure because if the whitewashing of the Poles through embodiment in an heroically human character, description of general population as submissive but deep down good if understandably a bit too greedy and presenting evil as foreign, German and Ukrainian.
A brilliant, unshowy, unsentimental film about a group of Jews whose only hope of survival is to shelter in the sewers beneath Lodz and trust their lives to an untrustworthy thief. It is the complex and often flawed personalities and relationships that give this film a realism that is not often seen in Holocaust movies.
Following the trial of courage in the face of one of the Third Reich's most notorious occupations, this film charts the growth of one mans opportunism into heartfelt humanity for those under his supervision. An austere but none the less well crafted piece of cinema, tackling the struggle and endurance of those living through the holocaust on both sides of the wire.
Holland made one of the best and most important Holocaust films back in '92 (Europa Europa) and though this is a very different tale it lacks in comparison. Yes, its an important story in charting the survival of Polish Jews in the sewer system during the Nazi occupation yet the film still seems to lack the ability to truly engage. Interesting choice to show both positive and negative human attributes.
Nails the dicey line between verite technique and visual incoherence; Holland achieves genuine naturalistic power with the camera, yet the film is immaculately composed. From its painterly light to its refreshing lack of didactic dialogue (so common to tip-toeing historical dramas) the film is complex but didn't quite hit emotionally. Not a big knock - easily could be on me.
Brutal and dark, yet sublime, this film was unusual from start to finish. A great deal of the film is spent with minimal light, the faces of characters barely lit by small hand lanterns and streaks of light pouring into the sewers - although frustrating at times, this made the above-ground scenes of winter war feel even colder and harsher than before. "In Darkness" was a highly gripping (and stressful) viewing.