Socha is one of Holland’s favored dramatic types: anti-heroic but capable of change. “What attracted me,” she says, “is that you cannot tell exactly when the change happens. It’s the tension of the story in some way. He doesn’t know what he will do next. He’s not someone who has very strong opinions or very strong values. He’s just reacting to what’s going on, and at some point, he starts to feel responsible. It causes him to act in an irrational way. He does things that are dangerous for him and his family. It’s very complicated.”
About 20 percent of the film was shot in sewers and the rest on a German soundstage. “It would be difficult to shoot everything in real sewers,” she says. “But I visited a lot of them when I was, you know, casting the sewers. I saw at least 10 sewer systems in different cities.”
For a Polish director, making a film set in sewage tunnels naturally evokes “Kanal,” a 1956 classic about anti-Nazi resistance fighters who travel through Warsaw’s underground conduits. That film was directed by Andrzej Wajda, later a Holland mentor; she wrote or co-wrote such Wajda films as “Korczak” (also Holocaust-themed) and “Danton.”
Holland was inspired by “Kanal,” and “I was making a little homage to it. But at the same time, it is a different story. What’s important in mine is that they spent such a long time in the sewers. It means the sewer becomes their home, their life. In the bottom of Hell you can create a normal life, kind of. With loving, [sex], cooking, educating children. This aspect, this everyday-ness was, for me, very interesting.”
Once known for scripting both her own and other director’s films, Holland hasn’t directed a screenplay she wrote in nine years. “Now I am too lazy,” she says. But she came to feel that “In Darkness” was as personal to her as anything she wrote.
“From the moment I said yes, it started to haunt me. It even entered my dreams. I felt that it was mine. I was pretty pretentious in telling the writer what he had to change, but fortunately he liked my ideas. And he made them even better.”
She catches herself being pretentious. “ ‘Even better!’ — sorry.” She chuckles and edits herself. “He made them better.”
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
★(145 minutes, at Landmark’s
and AMC Loews Shirlington) is rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, nudity and language.