Polish drama "In Darkness" sheds light on Holocaust

Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:18pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

TORONTO (Reuters) - With her new drama "In Darkness" Agnieszka Holland has returned to her native Poland to produce a haunting portrait of the Holocaust that could net the veteran director another Oscar nod.

The film, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, tells the true story of a group of Jews that hid for 14 months in the sewers beneath the then-Polish city of Lvov during World War II.

Shot in Polish and German, Holland said that while a film made in English would likely reach a wider audience, she wanted to make a Holocaust movie that was as faithful to the truth as possible.

"I felt that if I have to, if I want to, if I must do another movie which touches this theme, it has to be more realistic," she said. "I felt this story, for some reason, called for truth."

Holland is best known for her English-language films "The Secret Garden" and "Washington Square", as well as her earlier holocaust drama, "Europa Europa", about a young boy who joins the Hitler Youth to avoid being outed as Jewish.

"In Darkness", which is Poland's official pick for the Academy Awards' foreign language film category, focuses on Leopold Socha, an opportunistic sewer worker who agrees to hide roughly a dozen Jews in return for hefty weekly payments.

The film charts Socha's path from a mildly anti-Semitic Catholic, to a man willing to risk his life and his family to protect his subterranean wards, and was brought to life by actor Robert Wieckiewicz.

"He's just wonderful," said Holland. "I thought that the mix of the subtlety and brutality in him is exactly what would be perfect for the character."   Continued...