“Lore,” written by Cate Shortland (screenplay), Robin Mukherjee (screenplay) and Rachel Seiffert (novel), directed by Shortland, 109 minutes, not rated.
Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland revisits some of the themes explored in her 2004 feature debut “Somersault” with her latest film “Lore,” a coming-of-age story set in post-Nazi Germany.
Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is the eldest daughter of an SS Officer (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Nazi accomplice (Ursina Lardi) in May 1945. As the Nazi party falls, Lore’s parents face imprisonment for their crimes, leaving Lore and her four siblings orphaned and outcast in a fractured country no longer under German rule. With their only refuge being their grandmother’s house, Lore leads her brothers and sister on a dangerous trek through the German countryside, on foot and unarmed.
As their journey becomes increasingly desperate, Lore and her siblings reluctantly befriend a Jewish refugee named Thomas (Kai Malina), who has the papers necessary to pass American, English and French checkpoints. As fate would have it, Lore’s only hope becomes a man whom she was raised to hate, the experience of which becomes the first of many eye-openers for the previously closed-minded teen.
What Lore gains from this journey is a sense of truth and independence, freeing herself from the bonds of lies that have obstructed her sensibility, and those that continue to come at her. What little innocence was left at the beginning of her travels is lost along the way, and her trust in her family and country is replaced with guilt.
Rosendahl delivers a powerhouse debut performance that is emotionally and physically challenging, and crucial to the film’s success. Not to be outdone, Malina is haunting as the enigmatic Thomas, whose true character slowly comes to light throughout the film. Both actors handle their roles with a degree of reservation that compliments Shortland’s simplistic style of filmmaking.
Shortland’s “Lore” is beautifully shot with a minimalist’s eye, portraying a WWII-era Germany that is torn apart by war and misguidance, while also capturing a contradicting tranquility deep within the country’s forests. Although sometimes heavy-handed, Shortland and writer Robin Mukherjee’s screenplay is full of rich subtext, adding layers to an otherwise basic story.