“In Darkness” was a Polish film nominated for an Oscar in 2011, but strangely rates only a 7.7 on IMdB. It is the true story of a group of Jews hiding from Nazis in the decrepit sewers of a large Polish city at the end of WWII. Many people complained because it’s (yawn) “just another” Holocaust rescue film like Schindler’s List. It only grossed $1 million in its U.S. run. Another shameful comment on American movie-goeers, as if you needed another.
To me it was on the level of “Das Boot.” It is a terrorizing 2.5 hours of relentless horrors and ugliness that won’t let you look away. It presents the bold sexuality of people who don’t know if they’ll live another minute– a generally undiscussed topic. Most of it takes place in a sewer so real that you can smell it when the characters puke. The director, Agnieszka Holland is a master at handling a wide range of actors, fascinating character development, narrative pacing, and gut-wrenching cinematography, not to mention a horror show of sets, make-up and wardrobe.
The editing sometimes has jump cuts that challenge you to fill in the gaps– like a dream, but genuinely reflects the chaos of running for your life in a dark confusing and terrible place. If you’re interested in the art of cinema that twists you around its little finger, this is it. It makes “Hugo” and all the other recent big Hollywood films look like Mr. Rogers’ pablum.