Based upon the true story of one man's hiding and eventual rescue of Jewish refugees in the sewers of Lvov, Ukraine, In Darkness is a richly textured and captivating film. Capturing the ingrained prejudices between different racial groups at the time, this film neither shrinks from honestly depicting humanity both at its darkest and most joyful, nor from giving a full representation of the humour and absurdities of life which prevail even at the bleakest of times. As the plot progresses the rescuer, Socha, comes to realise the full horror of Nazi brutality, not just for the Jewish people but for his community as a whole. The true depth of his courage slowly emerges as he wrestles with risking his life and those of his family and friends to try and do what he knows to be right and protect a group of people he has grown to love.
When it was made and where
Agnieszka Holland is a prominent Polish filmmaker. Her two Jewish paternal grandparents were killed in the Warsaw ghetto, while her mother was a Catholic who fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and was a member of the Polish Underground. This is her third film based on events of the Holocaust.
Issues to be aware of
The film is told in German, Polish, Ukrainian and Yiddish with English subtitles. There are scenes of violence and of a sexual nature throughout.
People are not all good or all bad
In the words of Agnieska Holland;
‘Every human being – regardless of where they come from – can be very virtuous or very flawed. I was trying to show the complexity of the human condition. Very few people are only bad (well, psychopaths maybe). And very few are only good (saints maybe). I was fascinated by how I would have behaved in the moment if faced with Socha’s choice. And I honestly tell you I cannot answer that question.’
- Socha the rescuer at first has a prejudiced and stereotypical view of the Jewish people and is motivated to help them for monetary reasons. Later he grows to understand how irrelevant their differences are and while he still tussles with his decision, chooses to help them for moral reasons
- the Jewish characters, both in fleeing the ghetto and in spending 14 months together in a sewer are tested greatly and treat each other with kindness and greed at different times
Victims of Nazi persecution were part of the community
- at the beginning of the film Polish civilians are depicted as compliant with Nazi brutality. However Polish civilians are also targeted later in the film when Socha’s friend and former colleague Szczepek and numerous other innocent young men were wrongly hanged for the murderer of a SS soldier. An ingrained, common hatred of the Nazis is established within the community of Lvov
Ordinary people can make a difference
- despite the many difficulties faced by Socha and the Jewish refugees, their triumphant emergence into the sunlight following liberation is testament to power of one ordinary sewer worker to save the lives of many
You can use HMDT resources to find out more about examples of acts of resistance and people going into hiding: