While I was in Wroclaw last month, I headed over to the movies. It has been a while since I have been to the cinema and in Poland it has been even longer since I have seen a feature length film. Last year’s Och Karol 2 (which incidentally I saw in Wroclaw) was a fantastic film, so this year’s choice was a bit of a surprise, in fact a complete about turn. From Comedy to a film set in WWII.
In January, I saw the Polish nomination for this year’s foreign language Oscar, W ciemności – In Darkness. A brilliant film set in Polish Lwow (today’s Lviv) during WWII when this part (of then) Poland was occupied by Germany. It told the true story of a local man who hid some of the Lwow’s Jew’s in the city’s sewage system during the German occupation. I have not seen the other nominations for this year’s foreign language award, but if they are anything up to the standard of In Darkness, then it will be a tough fight!
The film is brilliant. And I did not watch it with any English subtitles. In fact, the film had dialogues in Polish, Lithuanian, German, Russian and Hebrew. No English, and yet, I understood the bulk of the film. And yes, the film was horrific at times. The subject mater, dealing with WWII, made the film brutal. For a Polish audience, this is normal, for me, someone who is new to Poland, it was horrific. But fascinating at the same time. You see, the was no glamourisation in the film nor was there any sugar coating of the facts that occurred. In the sewer, the entrapped people lived out their lives. Laughing, crying, arguing, making love, giving birth. It was a small village under the city. And it was life, recorded.
Compared to last year’s choice, W ciemności is a very different story to watch, but like Och Karol, I enjoyed it immensely. Fro very different reasons, but seeing these two films have shown me the contradiction and the depth in Poland’s film output. For starters, it is shot beautifully, as slick as any Hollywood production. And to think this portrayed a sewer system, so with all the water around, the set must have been a nightmare to shoot in. This film had a budget, but it was used well. The acting is brilliant (remember, I understood the film without the subtitles) and the portrayal of the characters on screen is so vivid.
So what next when I head off to Poland in February? Another film or something different? Erm, I’m not sure. These plans are exactly that, plans, that often go awry. The best thing however is to let me follow the wind and to see what happens on the day itself. I will keep you all informed about my next trip.
But back to the subject at hand. If you get the chance to see this film, do! It is brilliant! Epic, tragic, and a story about human courage and warmth in the face of adversity. Well worth the trip to the flicks! Just see it, my first (and very hearty) recommendation for 2012!