In Darkness (2011 film)

In Darkness (Polish: W ciemności) is a 2011 Polish drama film written by David F. Shamoon and directed by Agnieszka Holland.[1] It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards.[2]

In Darkness
UK cinematic poster
Directed byAgnieszka Holland
Produced byAndrzej Besztak
Steffen Reuter
Patrick Knippel
Marc-Daniel Dichant
Leander Carell
Juliusz Machulski
Paul Stephens
Eric Jordan
Written byDavid F. Shamoon (based on In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall)
StarringRobert Więckiewicz
Benno Fürmann
Maria Schrader
Herbert Knaup
Music byAntoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz
CinematographyJolanta Dylewska
Edited byMike Czarnecki
Zebra Films, Schmidtz Katze Filmkollektiv, the Film Works
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • 2 September 2011 (2011-09-02) (Telluride (USA))
  • 15 September 2011 (2011-09-15) (Poland)
Running time
144 minutes
CountryPoland, Germany, Canada
LanguagePolish, German, Yiddish, Ukrainian

Based on true events during German occupation of Poland, the film tells about Leopold Socha, a sewer worker in the Polish city of Lwów. He used his knowledge of the city's sewer system to shelter a group of Jews who had escaped from the Lwów Ghetto during the Holocaust in Poland.[3]


In Darkness is a dramatization of a rescue of Jewish refugees during World War II in the German-occupied city Lwów (Lemberg in German, L'viv in Ukrainian). For over a year, a Polish Catholic sewer maintenance worker and burglar, Leopold Socha along with his friend and co-worker Szczepek Wróblewski, hid and cared for a group of Polish Jews who had escaped the massacres and deportations during the liquidation of the Lwów Ghetto. At first the men demand daily payment for their help but they continue to aid the group long after the Jews' money has run out and aiding them had become ever more dangerous. The Jewish ghetto had been established in 1941 and the Nazis decided to liquidate it in June 1943. The Soviets took over Lwów city in July 1944, by which point Socha's band made up 10 of the fewer than 1,000 surviving Jews in the city. Socha's and Wróblewski's actions and those of their wives led to their recognition as Righteous Among the Nations recipients.


Production and release

Dedicated to Marek Edelman,[4] the film is a Polish-German-Canadian coproduction, with a screenplay by Canadian writer David F. Shamoon.[5] In Darkness is based on the book In the Sewers of Lvov (1990) by Robert Marshall. The last survivor of the group, Krystyna Chiger, published a memoir of her experience, The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow (2008). It was not a source for the film, as Holland was unaware of the book prior to the film's release [6] This was the first full-length film shown at the 23rd Polish Film Festival in America in Chicago on the Opening Night Gala.[7][8]


As of December 2016, a majority of film critics have given the film a positive review (88% "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes[9]). Its average Metacritic review score is 74/100.[10]

A review by Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called it "a harrowing nail-biter of a movie".[11] Ella Taylor of NPR wrote In Darkness "satisfies for the intensity of the performances and for the artful contrasting of life on the teeming streets of L'viv with life and death in the dim, rat-infested sewers", adding that it "is often a thrilling adventure picture — as if Anne Frank had found an Inglourious Basterd to help her make The Great Escape".[12] Ty Burr of The Boston Globe called the film "a harrowing Holocaust tale, but one that speaks to humankind's capacity to endure, to fight on in the face of terrible cruelty", adding that Holland "elicits taut performances from a strong cast".[13] David Denby of The New Yorker called it "the most volatile that Holland has directed. With a distinguished, hardworking cast of German and Polish actors", noting that "honesty is the movie's greatest strength".[14] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said this "harrowing, engrossing, claustrophobic and sometimes literally hard to watch […] robust, arduous drama is more ironic and multi-faceted than most such tales and should be well received by the considerable art house audience worldwide partial to the subject matter".[15] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal said this "brave epic" film's "suspense, derived from a true story, is excruciating and inspiring in equal measure".[16] A. O. Scott of The New York Times called In Darkness "suspenseful, horrifying and at times intensely moving […] touching, warm and dramatically satisfying".[17] On the other hand, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times dismissed the film as redundant and inferior to Schindler's List which was "more entertaining" in his view.[18] Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice claimed that "Holland does skirt the ethical entrapment of Schindler's List (over-lionizing the Aryan rescuer)", adding: "It's not fair, but there it is: We've been here before."[19] The German authorities in occupied Poland referred to non-Jews, including Poles, as Aryans; colloquially, documents proving one's non-Jewish identity were called "Aryan papers", and the areas prohibited to Jews were known collectively as "the Aryan side".[20] the Polish districts of citi David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote: "In outline, In Darkness is a standard conversion melodrama, but little within those parameters is easy. The darkness lingers into the light."[21] Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle called it "an extraordinary movie, and somehow good art […] a gripping piece of history and also an exploration into the mysteries of the human soul", and gave it "the highest recommendation".[22]


In Darkness was nominated for the best foreign language film at the 84th Academy Awards.[2] Nominated alongside the official Canadian nominee Monsieur Lazhar, it attracted attention in the country for marking the first time in the history of cinema of Canada that had its two films nominated for the best foreign language film Oscar in the same year.[5] At the International Valladolid Film Festival (SEMINCI), Agnieszka Holland won the award for best director.[23][24] The film garnered several award nominations at the 32nd Genie Awards, including best adapted screenplay for Shamoon. It also received the Grand Prix at the 7th Batumi International Art-house Film Festival.[25]

See also


  1. "W ciemności". Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  2. "Oscars 2012: Nominees in full". BBC News. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  3. "Agnieszka Holland - In Darkness". Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  4. P. 24
  5. "Canadian roots grow at Oscars". The Chronicle-Herald, 17 February 2012.
  6. Dowell, Pat. Poland's Holland, Exploring Holocaust History Again. National Public Radio, 19 February 2012.
  7. "List of Films - Polish Film Festival in America". Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  8. "In Darkness". Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  9. "In Darkness". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  10. "In Darkness Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. 10 February 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  11. Lisa Schwarzbaum (10 February 2012). "In Darkness Review | Movie Reviews and News | Spring Movies - Calendar, Trailers, Movie Photos, Movie Clips, Movie Guide". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  12. Corliss, Richard (9 February 2012). "Movie Review—In Darkness: How a Swindler Became a Schindler | Entertainment | Time". Time. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  13. Thompson, Gary (1 March 2012). "Harrowing story of Polish Jews whose hiding place was a sewer". Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  14. Denby, David. "In Darkness". The New Yorker. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  15. McCarthy, Todd. "In Darkness: Telluride Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  16. Morgenstern, Joe (9 September 2011). "In Telluride, High-Altitude Viewing | Film Reviews by Joe Morgenstern - Wall Street Journal". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  17. A. O. Scott (8 December 2011). "'In Darkness' From Agnieszka Holland - Review - New York Times". New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  18. Roger Ebert (15 February 2012). "In Darkness". Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  19. Michael Atkinson (8 February 2012). "In Darkness: Down in the Sewer, Desperate to Survive - Page 1 - Movies - New York". The Village Voice. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  20. Gunnar S. Paulsson, Secret City: The hidden Jews of Warsaw 1940-1945 (Yale 2002)
  21. Edelstein, David (5 February 2012). "David Edelstein on 'In Darkness' and 'Rampart' - New York Magazine Movie Review". New York Magazine. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  22. Mick LaSalle (24 February 2012). "'In Darkness' review: Humanity rises from depths". SFGate. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  23. "In Darkness". Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  24. "In Darkness". Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  25. "FESTIVALS: BIAFF Grand Prix award goes to In Darkness". Archived from the original on 2 October 2012.
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