‘Lore’ Movie Review

 

As children, parents define your world. They teach you what’s right and wrong, how the world works, and how you should interact with others. What would you do then, if you found out the world they had made for you was a lie? Australian-German drama “Lore” seeks to answer this question by following one girl’s story through Germany in 1945.

When the Allied forces arrest her SS officer father and Nazi-supporting mother, 14-year-old Lore (pronounced LOR-ha) finds herself as mother and caretaker to her four siblings, including her infant brother Peter. Left to fend for themselves, Lore (played by newcomer Saskia Rosendahl) leads her siblings on a voyage through the Black Forest and across a hostile post-World War II Germany to the safety of their grandmother’s house near Hamburg.

Shunned at every turn and slowly understanding that the majority of people they encounter now hate them, they find one man willing to help- Thomas, a Jewish refugee.  Thomas (played with breathtaking restraint by Kai-Peter Malina) offers to help the destitute children navigate across the treacherous environment, using his Jewish identification papers to help them disguise their own heritage.

There is a palpable attraction between the two main characters, but the disgust that Lore has been taught to feel by her parents and the Hitler Youth battles against the desire to get to know the mysterious refugee. Lore’s realty and conviction crumble as they traverse hundreds of miles, with each step bringing her closer to understanding the realty of their parent’s actions and the regime they supported. As she fends for her life, she also must try to discern what kind of a person she’s fighting to be.

“Lore” is Australian director Cate Shortland’s second film, following her debut to feature length cinema with the well-received “Somersault” (2004).  The tension Shortland weaves throughout each scene is so thick that the impact of a tentative touch feels like that of a hand grenade. “Lore” truly thrusts audiences into the desperation of post- World War II and reveals a side of the war that many neglect.

Carried by the two main actors, Rosendahl and Malina, the entire cast gives achingly convincing performances that draw you in with every subtle movement they make. You feel the dirt on their hands and their hearts pounding in their chests.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom), the movie feels unassuming at times, glossing over visual details that may make you want to give the movie a second viewing (if you can handle the emotional upheaval it may leave you in).

The only thing audiences will be left wanting is a just a little bit more. “Lore” is a beautiful adaptation of Rachel Seiffert’s novel “The Dark Room,” which weaves the stories of three post- World War II German citizens. However, since even the attention of the book is divided between storylines, you find yourself wishing there was just a little bit more meat to it. A couple of the scenes seem convenient almost, which takes away from the historical reality the movie borrows. A few moments of brilliantly crafted symbolism help illustrate the film’s message, but ultimately are counterproductive, as it merely helps fictionalize the story.

“Lore” in unrated is in German with English subtitles. It has a runtime of 109 minutes and is playing at Camera 3 in San Jose and at the Nickelodeon in Santa Cruz.

Stars: 3 out of 4

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