Director: Agnieszka Holland
Writer: David F. Shamoon
Release Date: N/A
Country: Germany, Poland
Language: Polish, German
In March, 1943, Lvov, Poland is a beautiful city held in the iron grip of the Nazi occupation. The weak prey upon the weaker, the poor steal from the less poor. Near the bottom of this chain is Leopold Soha, a petty thief. His knowledge of the sewers' intricate maze of tunnels and chambers, in which he hides his loot, has earned him a menial job as a sewer worker.
There is a group of people in Lvov worse off than Soha - the Jews. Crowded into a ghetto, they are being worked and starved to death. Realizing that the ghetto will be destroyed, a motley group meet in secret to plot an escape into the sewers.
Under constant surveillance, they manage to tunnel down. As soon as they enter this dark netherworld, they are discovered by Soha. The Jews offer him money to hide them. The penalty for aiding Jews is public hanging of the helper and his entire family. But Soha desperately needs this money. In spite of grave misgivings on both sides, they strike a deal.
None too soon. The Nazis start to liquidate the Lvov ghetto and hundreds of panicked Jews descend into the sewers. Soha fights through chaos to round up his group and hide them, but his challenges are just beginning. He must use a lifetime of street smarts to deal with difficult, stubborn people and keep them one step ahead of death.
The Nazis, convinced there are Jews in the sewers, increase the pressure. When they offer Soha a handsome reward to turn in Jews, he is torn. Meanwhile those in hiding begin to crack. A few try to escape and are shot on sight. Buckling under the pressure, Soha abandons the group.
But fate drives him back. He comes upon Mundek, the bravest of the Jews, scrounging for scraps. Mundek is stopped and threatened by a soldier. Soha can't help himself. He comes to Mundek's rescue, helping him kill the soldier and escape back into the sewers.
From this moment on, Soha is committed. But the trials are relentless. In the sewer a woman gives birth, with tragic consequences. Soha helps Mundek slip into the very heart of darkness, the Janowska concentration camp, trying to rescue the sister of Klara, the feisty young woman he loves.
Inevitably the money, which was Soha's only justification, runs out. But he realizes that he can't turn back, so he buys the Jews food with his own money, moving them from one chamber to another, protecting their precious lives as the war grinds on.
Then catastrophe. A devastating flood threatens to drown the entire group and Soha is nowhere to be found. Suspicious Nazis have thrown him in jail. Miraculously, the flood waters recede. And Soha is released unharmed.
Finally in July, 1944, after fourteen months, Soha leads his people, blinking and blind, into the light, to freedom