Thursday, June 21, 2012

To See or Not to See: In Darkness

I rented In Darkness this week and figured it would be a good way to kick my To See or Not to See posts off again.

The movie, starring Benno Furmann, Herbert Knaup, and Robert Wieckiewicz (to name a few) and directed by Agnieszka Holland, was a 2011 Polish release about a group of Jews who are hidden away in the Lvov sewers by a local sewer worker.

After digging their way down through the floor of one of the ghetto houses, a group of Jews find themselves face to face with Leopold Socha, a sewer inspector who knows the tunnels like the back of his hand. Socha could turn them in -- it's well known that the Germans are paying 500 a head for Jews -- or he can help them. One of the men, Ignacy Chiger, agrees to pay Socha if he'll guide them through when they need him. Need comes much too soon, though, when German soldiers raid the ghetto killing off anyone they come across. A small group is able to escape and an even smaller group is able to hide out under Socha's instruction. 

Amazingly, this story is true. Chiger's daughter, Krystyna, wrote about it in her bio The Girl in the Green Sweater, which was released in hardcover in 2008. An earlier book about the event, In the Sewers of Lvov: A Heroic Story of Survival From the Holocaust by Robert Marshall, was released in 1991.

I completely missed any an all talk of this movie in spite of the fact that it was nominated for an Academy Award this year. In fact, foreign films are so poorly advertised here, it was only because I was interested in seeing what new movies Furmann (North Face, Joyeaux Noel, Anatomy) might be in that I stumbled across it at all. The fact that I might have missed it altogether is a shame really. In Darkness is well done. The story is harrowing and intense and everyone -- both cast and crew -- seems to have done such a great job telling the story. A story like that of Leopold Socha, Krystyna Chiger, and the other survivors is a testament not only of the horrors man has visited upon one another but also to human strength and is one that no one should ever be allowed to forget.

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