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Eileen McCormick / Khmer Times Share:
In Darkness is written by Natalie Dormer and director Anthony Byrne. Vertical Entertainment

An espionage thriller with a cinematic flair – that’s ‘In Darkness’.

Co-written by Natalie Dormer and director Anthony Byrne, ‘In Darkness’ has been likened to the 1967 horror-thriller ‘Wait Until Dark’ and 2005 drama-crime film ‘A History of Violence’. But this isn’t your expected action-packed thriller, so don’t get disappointed.

Though blind since childhood, Sofia (Natalie Dormer) is an independent woman pursuing a career in playing piano for orchestral film scores. She does not only live alone in her apartment, but is very much literally alone in her everyday life. It appears that her only ‘friend’ is the street violinist, whom she regularly buys coffee for and exchanges few conversations with.

Sofia lives below a beautiful neighbour named Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski). The two have limited exchanges of words but enough so that Sofia notices and gets curious of Veronique’s distinct scent – something the latter calls her “secret”. Veronique’s perfume ends up becoming part of the plot twist in the movie as it gets revealed as sort of key digital information.

Natalie Dormer plays the role of Sofia, a blind pianist whose past gets revealed after the murder of her neighbour. Photo: Vertical Entertainment

One night while Sofia practices her score at her piano, she overhears loud voices through the paper-thin walls above her. The muffled voices and high-heeled footsteps continue into the morning.

The following day, Sofia meets Veronique on the elevator apparently escaping from someone or something. She later hears the heated arguments on the upstairs apartment elevate with the eventual fall of Veronique from the balcony above.

The ensuing media coverage and police investigations leads to the revelation of Veronique’s real life. Her Serbian businessman father, Milos Radic (Jan Bijvoet) is accused of war crimes. Her boyfriend, Marc (Ed Skrein) and his sister, Alex (Joely Richardson) become the main suspects of Veronique’s death.

It is later revealed that both Marc and Alex may have connections with Radic, with the siblings just following orders from him to kill Veronique and keep his key secrets protected. The plot intertwines all these threatening characters in different angles.

Sofia gets involved in the case as a detective comes to her with hopes that she will be able to provide clues about the murder of her neighbour. Marc, meanwhile, strikes up a friendly and eventually romantic relationship with Sofia to find out what she has told investigators.

“In Darkness” heightens up when Sofia’s hidden past gets dug up, exposing her to be much less vulnerable and much more complex than everyone thinks. She apparently has a mentor of sort who helped her escape the Bosnian war. Unknown to everyone except for her mentor, Sofia has readied a life-long game plan of revenge against Radic. The old man understands Sofia’s need to get even, but wishes for her to let all her hatred go.

Natalie Dormer, Jan Bijvoet, Anthony Byrne and Si Bell on the set.

The thing about Natalie Dormer’s character, Sofia, is that her brave but imperfect persona will make you want to root for her and see her succeed in her plans, no matter how damaging they may seem. Sofia’s character changes – leaving her audience think she is more than what she appears to be. But even with that, you will still wish for her to triumph.

What made this movie worth the watch is its unique way of presenting a seemingly generic storyline. The artistic use of sounds and light are executed well. The colours are cold and dark – making viewers see what Sofia’s character sees as a blind woman; the sounds are extremely sharp; and the timings of edits and sequence intercutting are precise. It all somehow draws you into thinking what it might be like to live in a world without sense of sight.

While many critics love the score, it was, for me, more than that. The use of the metronome instead of white noise or music is one the best decisions the filmmaker has put into the film.

To be without sight is all about counting and music as sound becomes so mathematical and would need the infusion of a metronome to represent its rhythm. It is, for the sake of metaphors, also a representation of Sofia’s mind.

It comes out that Sofia and Veronique share more connection beyond the apartment building where they both live. Nothing happens merely by accident. As to how their characters are intertwined, I won’t spoil it for you. You will also have to find out who gets justice in the end and who spies on whom. Open the mystery box yourself if you decide to check ‘In Darkness’ in movie theaters.

This movie is on the longer side and is not jam-packed with action and killer martial arts. Instead, it highlights more on the art of making a movie that really represents the feelings and energy of not just Sofia but all the other characters and circumstances happening throughout the movie.

The movie is still showing in theaters around Cambodia. Escape the rain this weekend and enjoy the dark, quiet space that is the movie theater and find out the answers to the questions in the mystery box I just handed to you. This week’s movie pick kept me guessing the whole time the film was running. But it’s worth the confusion in the end.

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