In Darkness

Sofia has lived in darkness for most of her life, blind since she was a child; a sought-after musician, she does not answer when asked if the loss of once sense has made the others more keen. Perhaps it is true, or perhaps she feels it would be rude to respond that her talent is the result of hard work, harder than many in her enviable position could comprehend.

She moves about her elegant London flat with precise measured steps; her needs are simple, but money is one of them, for she has agreed to play a benefit for Serbian businessman Milos Radic who some believe to be a war criminal, but perhaps because of her position and perspective she is not one to judge others.

The request made through Radic’s daughter Veronique who lives in the flat directly above Sofia’s, they are acquainted but not close, living in two very different worlds until Veronique’s life comes to a sudden end when she falls from her window to the pavement below. The police question Sofia; obviously she could not have seen anything, but did she hear anything?

Directed by Anthony Byrne and starring Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer with it’s UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, In Darkness has been a nine year labour of love for the pair who also wrote and produced the film, a sharp thriller whose diverse European influences are worn with pride and respectful admiration.

With a traditional giallo killing of a raven-haired woman strangled by an unseen assailant wrong-footing audience expectation, In Darkness emphasises from the opening scene that in a film where the lead character is blind nothing may be as it first appears, Sofia shot in close-up with backgrounds blurred in soft focus and the sound design so prominent as to be almost overwhelming, the world presented as experienced by her.

Beneath the cool and sophisticated exterior of the classically trained pianist, she knows not to trust anything or anyone, lying to Detective Inspector Mills (Kill List‘s Neil Maskell) about what she heard upstairs because it is safer to remain silent than to offer herself as a witness who cannot be effectively protected without compromising her independence; even if she confirmed that she heard raised voices, an argument, what effective evidence would that be in identifying the other party present?

A clever variation on Hitchcock’s Rear Window with Niall Byrne’s rich score recalling Bernard Hermann’s orchestrations overlaid with Sofia’s discordant arpeggios, can she trust the man who rescued her after she was attacked on the street without ever seeing his face? As Marc, Deadpool‘s Ed Skrein is conflicted and subtle while unable to twirl a moustache to indicate her villainy his sister Alex (Red Lights‘ Joely Richardson) instead rolls her eyes with gleeful regularity.

Her role not helped by the incongruous dialogue of her introduction which Sofia and by extension the audience should have no immediate knowledge of, that is one of the few stumbles in a tangle of motivations and double crosses where everyone has an angle and something they are willing to kill or die for, In Darkness stepping into the light as a film which delights in confounding expectation and is all the better for it.

In Darkness is on general release from Friday 6th July

The Edinburgh International Film  Festival returns from Wednesday 19th to Sunday 30th June 2019

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