Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Agniezska Holland: In Darkness

Robert Wieckiewicz, In Darkness, Sony Pictures Classics, 2012.

 The Holocaust and its eternal horrors afford artists the ultimate expression of the evil in man. Holocaust films, by proxy World War 2 films, carry the weight of these scars. Spielberg and Polanski have investigated the vortex with shattering results; Polanski's picture, The Pianist, has the distinction of having been made by someone who lived through it all.

Polish director Agniezska Holland, who studied under master Andrzej Wajda, has been obsessed and driven by the Holocaust and its affects on her country, her countrymen Jews. Europa, Europa was her most famous; Angry Harvest and this, her new film, In Darkness, are equally wrenching examinations of the human cost of Nazi insanity.

Taking her inspiration from Wajda's masterpiece Kanal, Holland whirls us into the claustrophobic world of Nazi-occupied Poland. As the remaining Jews descend into the sewers, a local man, Socha ( a top-notch Robert Wieckiewicz) takes advantage, charging them exorbitent amounts of cash to take care of them. As the Polish police, betraying their own people, close in, Socha grows to care deeply for his new friends.

Now while the plot does not sound like anything new, it is Holland's artistry which captures and ultimately releases us. David F. Shamoon adapts Robert Marshall's book exceptionally, while Jolanta Dylewska's rupturing, rich cinematography perfectly captures the time. It is the way Holland intrinsically inverts Socha's character while steeping us in a frightening, unpleasant world, which slaps us awake once again to the lessons of the past.

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