The challenges that we face in life today are put into perspective when compared to what people endured during World War II. Stories about the holocaust are painful yet amazing in the sense that they shows us the strength in people that has no rival. In Darkness (W ciemnosci), directed by Agnieszka Holland, is the true story of a sewer worker that saves the lives of a group of Jews. Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) is a Pole living in Lwow (now called Lviv and part of Ukraine) in Nazi occupied Poland. He doesn't go out of his way to become a hero, but rather he stumbles on the opportunity to make money hiding Jews in the sewers he knows so well.
Lwow has a rich history for both Poles and Jews that spans many centuries (while today both of these groups are only small minorities), with a mix of ethnicities, including Ukrainians, coexisting peacefully before the war. With the conflict running its course, self-interest and survival are the two primary motivations most people are left with. Leopold risks not only his own life, but also that of his entire family, by assisting the survival of anyone Jewish. The Germans meted out a quick punishment of death to the Poles who tired any heroics. Both the group of Jews and Leopold have some reservations and distrust in each other, but as time goes on, their business arrangement turns into much more.
In Darkness doesn't spare us the brutal events of war and will be quite shocking for some viewers. I would say the film is inappropriate for children for a number of reasons and the squeamish may also find it hard to watch. However, the violence isn't gratuitous, as it only adds to what really went on. The realism is also enhanced by the fact that several languages are used in this movie, including Polish, Yiddish, German and Ukrainian.
No other subject has received as much attention in Polish cinema as World War II. Some say these films acted as a catharsis for the whole country after it witnessed so many horrors. While this still may hold true, these movies also educate their audiences to history many are unaware of. While In Darkness doesn't try to overload us with historical facts or dates, as it subtlety informs us of how life was like in Nazi occupied Poland. We get a good look at the chaotic and brutal way of life people had to endue and come away with an appreciation that things should never be that away again.