Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lack of Light

In Darkness       WWW Score: 70%

It's a subject that's been covered innumerable times but the Holocaust remains irresistible to filmmakers. From 'The Diary of Anne Frank' to 'Life Is Beautiful', we've pretty much seen the darkest period in mankind's history from all angles but never truly from the underground up.

The aptly titled 'In Darkness' takes the proceedings into the labyrinth of sewers just below the unspeakable atrocities being committed above.
When we first meet Leopold Socha (a strong Robert Wieckiewicz), he's robbing a house and if not for a lack of bullets, story over. He lives on to continue his mission in life, being both a petty thug and maintenance man for the sewers under Nazi-occupied Lvov, Poland.

During the soon-after onslaught, Leopold agrees to hide a group of Jewish residents in the sewers for a price - risking he and his family's safety for the almighty power of cash. The fear of being found to be a Jewish sympathizer causes Leo to reevaluate his actions - going from disownment to a humanitarian effort.

It's an obvious turn but one that carries a reasonable emotional attachment to it. Unfortunately, we don't share the same level of connection to the group forced to survive underground. Aside from two small children in the crowd, it's difficult to get truly invested in characters that are often either: a) unlikable or b) not thoroughly realized.

A large part of the blame has to do with the sheer number of people in focus - while it's based on a true story, focusing on one family rather than a multitude of personalities would have delivered a greater impact.

While this is the ultimate "survival" scenario, it feels similar to any number of doomsday movies with folks trapped in a location bickering incessantly to the point that you become detached from the screen and from them.

Not helping the cause, the film's 145 minute runtime - director Agnieszka Holland needs a refresher course in film editing (the "check-my-watch" test failed no fewer than three times during the viewing).

While Holland undoubtedly succeeds in making the viewer feel as if they are a part of the pack living with the rats, a director's cut wasn't necessary to accomplish that.

As earnest as 'In Darkness' may be in its attempts to bring emotion to the table, it all feels forced rather than being allowed to grow organically.

The whole thing is very 'Schindler's List' minus the ineradicable impact. In fact, you'd be better served by viewing the Spielberg classic again before sloshing around in these sewers.