Movie review: In Darkness

By Columbus Alive
From the March 29, 2012 edition

As the decades separate us from it, we look back on the Holocaust with a collective moral clarity. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

Of course, if such clarity really existed, those atrocities wouldn’t have occurred. In a blink not so far back in history, terrible things happened, and a lot of people didn’t try to stop them.

Films about the treatment of Jews during this period carry a lot of emotional weight. The latest entry is the Polish export “In Darkness.”

Based on a true story, the film was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film this year, and comparisons to “Schindler’s List” are obvious. They also call attention to its flaws.

During the Nazi occupation of Lvov, Poland, Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) is a sewer worker — and occasional petty thief — struggling to provide for his family.

Socha happens upon a group of Jews who have tunneled into the sewer to escape the liquidation of the ghetto, setting up an initially cynical deal to allow them to stay there in exchange for cash.

Director Agnieszka Holland (“Europa Europa”) casts the film around its title. Much is spent in the dimly lit underground sewers where men, women and children spent 14 harrowing months.

The film is relentless, but it plods through its 2 1/2-hour runtime with more episodic moments than a strong narrative.

It’s absolutely gripping in moments but lacking as a whole.