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Monday, April 14, 2014

IN DARKNESS (2011)

In spite of a long & varied career with recent credits on cable’s TREME and the upcoming ROSEMARY’S BABY tv remake, Polish-born, Czech-trained, Netherlandian-named director Agnieszka Holland remains best known for her superb WWII Jewish-teen-on-the-run story EUROPA, EUROPA/’90. So a lot of people may have taken a been-there/seen-that attitude toward this fine & remarkable tru-life WWII Jews-in-hiding story which in précis sounds something like THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK IN A POLISH SEWER. Talk about a tough sell! But the story turns out to be richer & stranger than you expect, possibly because it sticks so closely to the facts, darker and yet far more hopeful. The modern bane of handheld camera work gets a workout in the early sections, but Holland lets up as the characters particularize themselves into the eleven who find special protection from the master of the sewers of Lvov, a man who tells himself he’s doing this for the money, but in fits & starts develops a complex, almost proprietary relationship with his secret charges. Tense & believable, ghastly & horrifying, at times oddly thrilling, and without any mournful cellos ripping off Kol Nidre on the soundtrack, this is a Holocaust-themed film that sees history plain . . . and is all the better for it.

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