Film Critic: Solid tale of heroism
tion, reflecting subtle changes to status or power relations.
Thus, one of the Jews, Klara, moves from crystal clear Warsaw Polish to broken German or Yiddish in times of desperation or passion, while her fellow hideaway prides himself in speaking strict Hochdeutsch (high German). Depending on place and purpose, the main character Leopold shifts between gwara lwowska, the now defunct dialect of Polish Leopolitans, and PolishUkrainian surzhyk.
A tense scene in which Leopold demands the Jews not speak Yiddish, which he cannot understand, conveys both his fears of retribution and their concerns about betrayal.
Sadly, those unfamiliar with the languages used will miss out on much of the film’s depth, which does not exist in other areas. The scenario remains predictable, and raises no new issues or questions. Moreover, it does nothing to challenge the archetypes typical of Poland’s World War II cinema.
Despite his initial materialist streak, Leopold turns selfless hero as any good Pole should, while a cheating husband is the only thing adding nuance to the standard portrayal of Jews. The worst lot befalls Ukrainians, who are pictured as eager if at times troubled Nazi collaborators, with virtually no context to speak of.
Viewers in the crowded cinema room, where most seats went to invited members of Lviv’s Polish community while locals sat on the floor or stood in the back – an irony lost on the organizers – could thus be forgiven for feeling disappointed. Passing on the chance to explore Lviv’s multicultural past, the film somehow feels smaller than its lengthy 144 minutes would otherwise suggest.
A solid piece of cinematography, “In Darkness” nonetheless remains in the shadows of Holland’s previous work.
A screen shot from “In Darkness,” a Polish film which recounts the story of Leopold Socha, a sewer worker in Nazioccupied Lviv who uses his intricate knowledge of the city's canals to save Jews. (sonyclassics.com)