It's a fascinating contradiction that butts against the more straightforwardly celebratory reactions of the young Amos (Amir Tessler) and his father, Arieh (Gilad Kahana), but as Fania succumbs to melancholia, so the film too buckles under the weight of her paralysis. Tessler and Kahana are both very good as the bookish pair who struggle to break her from her reverie but the languor can't help but spread to the audience. Before that sets in, there is much to commend. Politics naturally plays a key part and is delicately woven into scenes and plot developments. The early sequences are punctuated by mythical yarns spun by Fania that allow for slightly more aesthetically interesting flashes and Slawomir Idziak's cinematography manages to combine a muted palette with bolts of vivid colour and plenty of murky blacks. As suggested by the title, darkness is a recurring theme. In one of Arieh's several forays into the linguistic contortions he explains to Amos that words such as 'darkness', and 'forgetting' stem from the same root; 'lacking' (i.e. lacking light, lacking memory). By way of this clever exchange, darkness becomes a pervasive presence whenever something is "lacking" - from a couple lacking children ("a million kiddies" cries one wretched soul in 1945) to Fania's eventual lack of will. "This disappointment is in the nature of dreams," asserts the wizened older Amos, but it makes his mother's drawn-out demise no easier to bear - for the characters or the audience.
The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from 10-20 September 2015. For more coverage, follow this link.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson