Lore (Music Box Films, NR)

film lore_smLore manages to be both a thriller and a highly introspective film focused on primarily on the girl’s emotional and intellectual maturation.



film lore_500

There is a tendency in the United States to count the cost of war strictly in terms of the number of dead soldiers on our side. This is a luxury born of not having a war fought on our own soil since 1865, coupled with a diminishing proportion of the population having any direct, or even secondhand, experience of combat. It ignores the toll any war takes on the civilians of the country in which it is fought, a toll that includes not only deaths and injuries caused by violence, but also disease and malnutrition caused by disruption of the normal systems of food supply, transportation, health care, and so on.

The realities of living in a country where a war is being fought, and not incidentally being on the losing side, provide the backdrop for Cate Shortland’s Lore, which traces the efforts of five German siblings to reach their grandmother’s house after being left on their own. The story begins in the last days of the Third Reich, as the children see not only their nation, but also their home life, crumbling around them. Their father (Hans-Jochen Wagner), an SS officer, returns to his unit, where he will presumably be killed, and their mother (Ursina Lardi), a Nazi sympathizer, decides to turn herself in to the Allies.

Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), age 14, is left in charge of her four younger siblings, the youngest of whom is only a baby. After trying to make a go of it for a few days, Lore decides they should make the trip from their country house in Bavaria to their grandmother’s home in Hamburg. While in theory it may be difficult to sympathize with the plight of Germans after the war, Shortland fights against this tendency by keeping a tight focus on the siblings and their efforts to make their way on a journey of several hundred miles, largely on foot, through the wastelands of their nation. It also helps that the children are young enough that, whatever their professed beliefs, it hardly seems fair to hold them responsible for the sins of the adults in their country.

Lore, adapted by Shortland and Robin Mukherjee from a story in Rachel Seiffert’s novel The Dark Room, manages to be both a thriller (What obstacle will they face next? And how will they overcome it?) and a highly introspective film focused on primarily on Lore’s emotional and intellectual maturation. Think of any 14-year-old girl you know, and then ask yourself how well she would cope with leading four younger children through a largely destroyed country, while also experiencing her own sexual awakening and learning to deal with the ambiguities of morality in a destroyed nation.

Rosendahl, in her first major role, carries the film on her slim shoulders, and provides both narrative and emotional continuity to a film whose deliberate pace and fragmented presentation of reality might otherwise prove exasperating. The other major role is that of Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a suspiciously well-fed man who has Jewish identity papers and aids the siblings on their journey north, but whose motivations (and, indeed, entire back story) seem questionable at best. The technical aspects of the film are uniformly excellent, particularly the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, who also shot the 2010 film Animal Kingdom. | Sarah Boslaugh

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