First, a note: The American Film Institute (AFI), the organization that works to preserve our cinema heritage, was founded in the Rose Garden at the White House 50 years ago. To commemorate this event, President Obama will introduce a telecast of the classic American film To Kill A Mockingbird on the USA Network (channel 34 on Cox Cable) Saturday, April 7, at 8 pm.
An AFI press release about the film notes that it stars the founding chairman of the AFI, Gregory Peck in his unforgettable portrayal of Atticus Finch. In the role, he embodies the film’s themes of family and fatherhood – justice and equality. In 2003, AFI named Atticus the greatest hero in the history of American film, and he stands tall there today, challenging us to stand for what’s right…no matter the cost. If you haven’t seen To Kill A Mockingbird since its 1962 release and would like to re-experience it or, perhaps, introduce a new generation to the movie, this is an excellent opportunity to do so.
The note above about To Kill A Mockingbird is kind of a fitting introduction to Agnieszka Holland’s film In Darkness because, even more unlikely a hero than the noble but fictional Atticus Finch, is the lead character in this true story, Leopold Socha.
Now, when we meet Socha, known as Poldek, (Robert Wieckiewicz) he is far from heroic. A sewer worker in Lvov, Poland (now Liviv in Ukraine) he agrees to hide a group of Jews in the sewer in exchange for money.
The story was first recounted by author Robert Marshall in his book In the Sewers of Lvov and was brought to the screen by David F. Shamoon. The people Shamoon writes about run the gamut — rich, poor, young, old, healthy, ill. Every type is there. But, like most Holocaust films, this one plays strongly on the knowledge the audience has of the Nazis and that era. We are prepared to see good triumph over evil as it does in this vaguely Schindler-like story of good triumphing over evil.
Director Holland is a very skilled storyteller — we breathe the air outside the sewer in great gratitude, along with the film’s characters and, also with them, feel closed in and stifled in the sewer.
Robert Wieckiewicz leads a skilled cast in bringing these real people to life. In fact, when we learn at the end what really happened to the people we’ve been watching we react as we would hearing about people we might have known.
Unlike To Kill A Mockingbird, In Darkness is rated R and contains some graphic wartime violence. So, if you want the younger people in your life to meet a hero this weekend stick with the movie that’s on TV.
In Darkness, certainly worth seeing and you can only do so at the Regal Village Square.