In Darkness: Interview with Agnieszka Holland

Agnieszka Holland’s WWII Holovaust Drama opens February 10, 2012

The year of 2009 brought a number of new Holocaust stories in books and films. One may ask if everything has now been said on this subject. But in my opinion the main mystery hasn’t yet been resolved, or even fully explored. How was this crime (echoes of which continue in different places in the world from Rwanda to Bosnia) possible? Where was Man during this crisis? Where was God? Are these events and actions the exception in human history or do they reveal an inner, dark truth about our nature?

 

Exploring the many stories from this period uncovers the incredible variety of human destinies and adventures, revealed in the richest texture of plots and dramas, with characters that face difficult moral and human choices, exercising both the best and the worst in human nature.

 

One of those stories is Leopold Socha and the group of Jews from Lvov’s Ghetto, whom he hides in the city’s sewers. The main character is ambiguous: seemingly a good family man, yet a petty thief and a crook, religious and immoral at the same time, perhaps an ordinary man, living in terrible times. During the story Socha grows in many ways as a human being. There is nothing easy or sentimental in his journey. This is why it’s fascinating; it’s why we can make this journey with him.

 

The group of Jews he saves is not made of angels. The fear, the terrible conditions, their own selfishness make them complex and difficult, sometimes unbearable human beings. But they are real and alive, and their imperfections give them a stronger claim to their right to life than any idealized version of victims could.

 

I immediately liked the story, liked the potential of it, the characters, and the script.

The biggest and the most exciting challenge for me as a filmmaker was the darkness. They live in the dark, stink, wet and isolation for over a year. We knew we had to express it, to explore this underground world in a very special, realistic, human and intimate way. We wanted the audience to have the sensual feeling of being there. And to maintain tension as the viewer slowly becomes attached to the story. The dynamic of the film is built on inter-cutting the worlds of the two leads, Socha and Mundek. These two worlds come together to be one, in which they must work together to survive.