Ve Stinu / In the Shadow (2012)

Hakle: "If we keep fighting it all the time, it's going to get tired and weak. And maybe one day somebody will defeat it."
By David Ondrícek
With Ivan Trojan, Sebastian Koch and Sona Norisová

I can't remember how I met In The Shadow, what I remember is that it struck me as a movie I could enjoy. It was also selected as the official entry to the Best Foreign Language film award, by the Czech Republic. My interest in foreign films coupled with the mystery and class of the 50's convinced me to see it.

The film takes place in Czechoslovakia in 1953. It starts with a burglary and we are then introduced to the policeman, Captain Hakl. While the police quickly finds out that the burglary was committed by someone part of the Jewish center, Hakl is convinced that the Jewish man didn't commit the crime. Captain Hakl is now involved in a big set up and things get worse when the State Police comes in and undermines his judgement. As per usual when fighting off corruption, the lone police man will find himself in danger and his family threatened.

What pleased me at first in In the Shadow was the time period. I liked the historical and political aspect involved in Czechoslovakia at the time, as well as the dress codes back then. The actors are quite convincing, and we also see Sebastian Koch (of Das Leben der Anderen (2006)) fame) play a German detective who ends up being a deeper character than we would expect at first.

The paranoia of the communist regime and lack of transparency is omnipresent and can be just as threatening as the tall walls of the old Prague buildings or the shadows, which are not only a part of the photography but also metaphorical for everything that is done off the record in a corrupted police unit. The ending can be a little moralistic, but it works in this case. Some scenes can strike as convenient, especially when it comes to what people see "by accident". Although those kind of clues are required in any mystery movie, they could have been done a bit better, I'd say. Most of the intrigue is pretty well explained but a few details remain "in the shadow".

I liked: Trying well to be historically accurate. Good intrigue. Filming techniques and old Prague go perfectly along. The Hakl family.

I disliked: Some clues are too obvious as red herrings in my opinion. The extent of knowledge and power of Zenke is never explained.

A powerful foreign crime film with additions of historical facts. It might be considered similar to Das Leben der Anderen for the political side and neo-noir for the era and crime investigating elements.


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