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Saturday, March 17, 2012

In Darkness Review

In Darkness Review
2011, 145 minutes
Rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity, and language

What is the deal with the Oscars?  Why do they never recognize foreign directors?  Agnieszka Holland directs this film with such a drive and original manner that it is a shame that she wasn't nominated.  Her film follows a man who, when the Nazis come into Lvov, Poland, hides Jews in the sewers.  The acting is excellent, but this is one film where the story and the craftsmanship are what make it the amazing piece of art that it is.  Much of the film was actually filmed in sewers which, after 145 minutes, makes the film grueling to watch.  I could practically smell the stench and feel the grit that the Jews felt underground, in darkness.  Holland makes full use of her surroundings and captures the claustrophobia and mood like few others could.  Her work here is daring and original.  If I ran the Oscars, she would get a Best Director nomination along with Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) and Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin).

The violence and tension in the film are relentless; the opening scene is a massacre in a forest.  As I was watching this film, I was on the edge of my seat, praying that no other horrifying events would occur.  But, alas, I was wrong.  The entire film is about survival and because of this, nearly every scene is a life-or-death situation.  But, Holland treats the film's subject with the utmost seriousness and respect making none of it feel fake or exploitative.  All I could think about during and after this film was about how genocides still happen and about the extent of man's capacity to do evil.  How could people do what the Nazi's did to others of their same species?  I have thought about this before, but it was especially prevalent after watching 2 1/2 hours of horror.

Though the violence was disturbing, the film was touching.  What touched me most about this film, was the heroism on display here.  I know that we have seen many "gentile-has-a-change-of-heart-and-saves-Jews" films, but this one is especially touching due to the extreme circumstances and the realistic feel of the danger that the main character faced.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, this film is a top-notch piece of work that will move and disturb you like few others could.  When I arrived back at my house, I walked over to my dog and hugged him with tears of pain and the gratefulness to be alive welling up in my eyes.  Do yourself a favor as a human being, see this film.

-Joshua Handler

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