In Darkness

3 out of 5 stars
A Jewish family seeks shelter underground in In Darkness
A Jewish family seeks shelter underground: In Darkness

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

There's been an ongoing fear that, in the post-Schindler's List era, the constant parade of WWII Jewish-persecution re-creations could potentially turn genocidal horrors into mere visual wallpaper; contributing to the necessary never-forget effort, filmmakers nonetheless run the risk of simply bringing on (not to sound insensitive) Holocaust imagery fatigue. While Polish director Agnieszka Holland (Europa, Europa) doesn't bypass these conventions in her tale of an opportunist caught in the machinations of history, she wisely uses them sparingly. As the Lvov ghetto becomes a chaotic charnel house, we see just enough inhumanity to understand why a survivalist hustler (Frmann) has been prepping an escape route into the sewers. And once the opportunistic inspector (Wiekiewicz) of those tunnels starts harboring the dozen refugees who've fled beneath the streets, it only takes a glimpse of what happens to collaborators to emphasize the perils sympathizers faced.

Such horrifying moments are used as punctuation instead of narrative paragraphs, making the impact of these short, sharp shocks that much more powerful. It's the rest of Ms. Holland's opus about this literal underground resistance movement, however, that borders on the overly familiar, even when the filmmaker's use of the dark, dank spaces ups the claustrophobic ante. (The shadow of Andrzej Wajda's Kanal hangs over much of Polish cinema, but never more so than here.) You know the money-over-morality argument will eventually tilt toward righteousness, yet the film's turn toward charcoal-sketch notions of good and evil only fuels a simplistic view of historical tragedy in the worst sort of way.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

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