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Schindler revisited

OUT NOW! IN DARKNESS attempts to transcend the Holocaust film pitfalls with only relative success.

In Darkness is based on the true story of Leopold Socha (Wieckiewicz), a Polish sanitation worker and professional thief, who in the late stages of World War II helped 20 Jews escape deportation by keeping them hidden in the Lviv sewers for over a year.

 The familiar scenario and the evident parallels between the character of Socha and Spielberg’s Schindler make it clear that In Darkness is set on rejecting the melodrama that cheapens so many Holocaust films. This works well initially, particularly in the presentation of the characters, which refuses to portray the Jews as saintly martyr figures and depicts Socha as a self-serving, anti-Semitic opportunist who extorts handsome pay in return for his heroism.

Over the course of its three hours, however, the film gradually relinquishes this unflinching objectivity, yielding to melodrama after all. As Socha’s hiding of the Jews becomes ever more precarious, In Darkness resorts to many a conventional emotion-wrenching scene to propel the story along, and by the time the Jews run out of money to pay him, Socha has successfully turned into the paradigm of the self-sacrificing hero it originally seemed he was meant to subvert.

This is not to say the film is without its strengths, as evidenced by its nomination for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. But if you’re looking for an addition to the very short list of films that manage to live up to the enormous task of representing the Holocaust, this one falls short.

In Darkness (In Darkness – eine wahre Geschichte) | Directed by Agnieszka Holland (Poland, Germany, France, Canada, 2011) with Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann, many languages with German sub