As vast and complex a series of events the Second World War was, there are scarcely any niches of it that haven’t been dramatized on screen in the decades since. The territory that Cate Shortland‘s Lore explores seems pretty fresh, though it was touched on a little bit in the brooding, claustrophobic Downfall. Set during the closing days of the war in Germany, the film follows the 15-year old Hannelore, “Lore” for short (Saskia Rosendahl) and her younger siblings after they are abandoned by their high-level Nazi parents (who, wouldn’t you know it, don’t seem to be the most likable people). Equipped with little more than the clothes on their backs, a few trinkets and a worthless wad of Reich banknotes, the five of them are forced to take to the countryside and journey to a relative’s house outside Hamburg. They are eventually joined by Thomas (Kai Malina), a young Jewish refugee.
Having been indoctrinated by the Hitler Youth, Lore is abrasive with Thomas, a person she has been taught to find naturally repulsive. But as she ventures outside her disintegrating world, fearful of capture by the American occupying army (“They murder the children, you know” her mother helpfully warns, before leaving to surrender herself to them), she is confronted with a world that has grown antagonistic to everything she was brought up to believe.
Though filmed in Germany, with German actors, in German, Lore is actually largely an Australian production, by Somersault director Cate Shortland. The look and feel of the film is intimate, occasionally surreal, and reminded me forcefully of the Australian classic Walkabout, with which it shares a vaguely similar premise. In other places, its cinematography, full of shallow-focus close ups and lush greenery, recalled Jane Campion‘s lovely Bright Star.
Lore’s greatest achievement may be its novelty–this story has been treated little outside of the occasional documentary–but to its credit, it refuses to play things safe with its subject. It’s difficult to root for children born into the privileged ranks of the Nazi elite, but it’s equally hard not to be a little forgiving, considering the blinders they wore as the heirs to a deceptive society. As the movie shows us, children are usually far more adaptable than adults, for worse and for better. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 5/28/13