'In Darkness' (Sony Pictures Classics)

Review: ‘In Darkness’

'In Darkness' (Sony Pictures Classics)
'In Darkness' (Sony Pictures Classics)

Who knew that raw sewage was such a strong aphrodisiac?

Poland’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film, In Darkness ended up with an Academy Award nomination this year, though the far superior A Separation won the Oscar. It’s easy to understand why In Darkness received a nomination; not only is it difficult for the Academy to resist a Holocaust-themed drama in general, this particular one boasts a distinguished director in Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa, Copying Beethoven) and a story that is not overly familiar.

The Jewish residents of Lvov, Poland, are in fear for their lives during World War II, threatened with extermination by the Nazi regime. But, as emphasized in the film, the terrorized men and women have the same physical needs that are common to all people. Before descending into the city’s sewer system in order to escape certain detention and likely death, one couple fulfills their sexual desires under the disbelieving eye of the man’s wife and daughter. Later, after a small group has taken refuge in a cramped chamber underground, a lonely woman is so aroused from watching a couple make love amidst the filth that she masturbates — until she realizes someone else is watching her.

It’s all rather sordid, though it contributes to the sense that Holland wanted to make a Holocaust story in which no one appears too noble. Indeed, she has succeeded to such a degree that the movie is a stifling, oppressive affair, filled with all-too-human characters whose imperfect actions speak much louder than their softly-uttered words.

— From my review at Twitch.

In Darkness opens today at Landmark Magnolia and Angelika Plano.