I am not certain how many films have been made about world war 2, but the fact that there can be lists such as The Top 50 Films about World War 2 suggests that the number is not insignificant. The prospect of seeing yet another, and one described as similar to Schindler’s List, a film I felt was deeply flawed, poorly directed and almost bitterly disappointing, was not an exciting thought.
However, I was wrong.
In Darkness is not just another World War 2 film. It is a lot of what Spielberg’s film claimed to be but was not. It is a human story of flawed individuals who do bad things and good things and sometimes survive simply as a matter of luck not virtue. It is a story about a man who wants to save his family and finds that his family has extended to include people whose language and religion feels inaccessible, frightening, and threatening.
The film is certainly not perfect. It runs too long – at least 20 of the 145 minutes could have been dropped. The foundation of the friendship between the protagonist, sewer inspector Leopold Socha and his old friend Bortnik, now a Nazi guard, is not adequately explained. The lack of argument, cries or protest in an early escape scene when only a small proportion of Jews fleeing the ghetto could be saved felt unrealistic.
Still, I have no regrets about spending my Saturday evening curled on the sofa watching this film. The cast was great and in particular the two lead actors, Robert Wieckiewicz as Socha and Benno Fürmann as Mundek Margulies, gave fantastic nuanced performances. Wieckiewicz in particular deserves mention for an early scene in which his ambivalence is conveyed entirely through facial expression and body language.