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‘In Darkness’ struggles against Holocaust-movie clichés

In Darkness

Written by David F. Shamoon

Directed by Agnieszka Holland

Poland / Germany / France / Canada, 2011

When Claude Lanzmann was developing his landmark nine-hour Holocaust documentary Shoah, his greatest self-appointed challenge was to chronicle the facts and lasting legacy of the massacring of millions of people while avoiding even the slightest intimation that the events described could be easily encapsulated within a mere film, regardless of length or scope. Lanzmann’s film is still the object of study and appreciation is cineaste circles, but in general, filmmakers haven’t been nearly as skittish as Lanzmann in tackling what he considered to be insurmountable. In the nearly two decades since that film’s release, Holocaust movies have grown into an awards-season cliché, often derided as exploiting human tragedy in order to showcase performances in the service of awards-hungry studios. It’s in this context that one will inevitably view Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness; in this instance.

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