Great reviews of "In Darkness"

Agnieszka Holland, Photo by PISF - Polsih Film Institute

Agnieszka Holland. Photo by PISF – Polsih Film Institute”


Poland’s candidate for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award, In Darkness directed by Agnieszka Holland, has received great reviews in the foreign press after being screened at film festivals in the USA and Canada.

On 11 th and 12th September In Darkness was shown to the foreign viewers during the 36th International Film Festival in Toronto in the Special Screenings section. The film has been enthusiastically received by the festival audience awarding In Darkness with a long standing ovation. At the beginning of September the film was also screened at the American Telluride Film Festival.


After screenings during both festivals foreign reviewers voiced very positive opinions on Polish Oscar candidate. Mike Goodridge from Screen Daily writes that “Agnieszka Holland returns to World War II for the first time since Europa, Europa in 1990 with In Darkness, which is her best film since then.” According to Goodridge the film is “solid, well made and extremely well-shot, it is a return to form of sorts for Holland.” In his review Mike Goodridge reminds that during this year’s Berlin festival Sony Picture Classics picked up US distribution rights to the film because In Darkness is “a solid arthouse performer and possible awards candidate.” Screen Daily reviewer considers that in her newest film “Holland does a terrific job of recreating the murky sewers, in both design and lighting, skillfully sustaining the drama even as it takes place in gloom. You can sense the stink and grime of the sewers, as the Jewish escapees battle rats, hunger, in-fighting and madness during their 14-month ordeal.”


Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter writes that “a grueling but unusual Holocaust survival story brought to life by Agnieszka Holland should play well with foreign film-friendly audiences.” McCarthy adds that Agnieszka Holland’s robust and arduous drama that begins its festival roll-out in Telluride and Toronto is more ironic and multi-faceted than most such tales. He also takes special notice on the role of Leopold Socha played by Robert Więckiewicz: “Socha is one of those classical unaffiliated heroes, a thoroughly unglamorous version of Rick in Casablanca, who, while not inclined to take sides, ends up doing the right thing. Unlike Schindler, he is no altruist and a bit of a mercenary, one who finds his inner mensch.” Todd McCarthy placed Holland’s film among the most important war movies next to Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg and The Pianist by Roman Polański. McCarthy considers that unusual and interesting take Holland and Shamoon offer does provide enough to make it worthwhile.


Agnieszka Holland’s film resounds also on different American blogs placing film reviews. The Internet portal puts Holland’s film on the list of 10 Buzziest Films at Telluride. According to the portal Agnieszka Holland has a strong chance of gaining both awards and audience. “Director Agnieska Holland has described this as her “third Holocaust movie, and hopefully last. ‘Trilogy’ sounds good.” She saved the best for last, with this grim but gripping true-life tale of dozens of Polish Jews who spent 14 months hiding from their hunters in a sewer system. (…) Holland stages dank action and suspense sequences as terrifically as she does the character interaction, among terrified refugees.” Steve Pond, who saw In Darkness during Toronto festival writes that “In Darkness the Polish Oscar entry and a film that seems almost certain to be nominated and quite likely to win.”


Kristopher Tapley writes at that In Darkness “”will no doubt figure into this year’s race for Best Foreign Language Film.”


At Leonard Maltin writes about In Darkness after Telluride festival screening: “Two reliable friends called Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness a masterpiece, so in spite of its tough subject matter and two-and-a-half-hour running time, I gave it a try. I’m so glad I did. A movie never seems long when it refuses to loosen its grip on you, and this is such a film.” In his review Leonard Maltin praises a very interesting script: “David Shamoon based his screenplay on a book written by one of the survivors of the ordeal, and the result is quite extraordinary. I was choked up by the end and could barely stop crying.”


Christine Estima, the rewiever of the Canadian portal writes that one of the biggest assest of In Darkness is the superb performance of both Polish and foreign actors: “The performances by Benno Fürmann and Agnieszka Grochowska specifically, who play Jews falling in love amongst the sewer waste, is particularly poignant.”


36. International Film Festival in Toronto will last till 18th September.


Full reviews are available at sites:,,,,,


On The Hollywood Reporter site there is also Scott Roxboroughz’s interview with Agnieszka Holland:


In Darkness has been co-financed by PISF – Polish Film Institute.


Kalina Cybulska