Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, André Frid, Mika Seidel, Kai Malina, Nick Holaschke, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Sven Pippig, Philip Wiegratz, Katrin Pollitt, Hendrik Arnst, Claudia Geisler
Cate Shortland, Robin Mukherjee, Rachel Seiffert (Novel)
Music Box Films
With her latest film Lore, director Cate Shortland (Somersault) accomplishes what would seem to be an impossible task - she creates a compelling, appealing and even sympathetic character who is also, to be quite blunt, a Nazi.
The film starts up in May of 1945, and it starts off with all the poignancy and beauty that we've come to expect from Shortland films. It is only moments, however, before this beauty is interrupted by the reality that Hitler is dead and Germany is under the control of Allied forces. Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is the eldest of five children to a mother and father we can easily surmise are about to face the consequences of their support of Hitler and their involvement in a concentration camp. After setting afire a wealth of documentation, the father quickly flees and we learn in short time that the mother is likely to end up in an internment camp.
Suddenly, Lore and her four siblings are on their own. The fantasy world, witnessed so majestically and poetically only moments earlier, is ripped out from underneath them. If this were just any child, we would feel overwhelming sympathy for Lore and her siblings. However, this is not just another child and our naturally in-dwelling sympathy conflicts with everything we've come to know and understand about the Nazis and the genocide they committed. Lore is a Nazi youth, because her father was a member of the SS and she was raised and indoctrinated from an early age that Hitler was their Jesus and, indeed, she worshiped him.
Lore reminds us that as stark and depraved and inhumane were the concentration camps, there were human beings amidst the chaos and the madness. There were followers who simply followed. There were children who knew nothing else. There were people who did what they had to do to survive. We'd like to say we wouldn't make that same choice, but as I look around the world these days I am reminded again and again and again of how easily humanity buys into the lies of its power seeking leaders.
Maybe the true gift of Lore, based upon a novel by Rachel Seiffert, is that it recalls our humanity even amidst our darkest nature. In the wrong hands, the character of Lore could be nothing more than a cliche' or a caricature. In the hands of Saskia Rosendahl, Lore is a vibrant young girl coming-of-age while simultaneously having everything she's ever known and everything she's ever believed questioned. Rosendahl gives a remarkable performance, especially given the stark and intimate lensing of Adam Arkapaw. Arkapaw also lensed the similarly remarkable Animal Kingdom, a different film yet in many ways he lenses both in such a way that he captures the weaving together of humanity and depravity and desperation. While some may be bothered by the all too common use of hand-held "shaky" camera work, it works in Lore because it is controlled and it plays powerfully into the unsettled nature of everything that unfolds and the instability of this journey.
When Lore and her siblings meet up with a young man, Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), not only is Lore forced to deal with her need for what he brings to the table but also with the feelings of attraction towards his courage and strength and, you guessed it, the fact that he is Jewish. Shortland doesn't shy away from these conflicts, and Rosendahl captures both the internal and external conflicts quite beautifully. Malina, as well, gives a remarkable performance filled to the brim with strength and honesty and vulnerability.
Lore was nominated for eight awards at the Australian Film Institute Awards and Rosendahl picked up the prize for Best Young Actor. The film picked up multiple awards on the film festival circuit and was an official selection at Cannes Film Festival before being picked up by Music Box Films for an indie/arthouse release. The film will be in theaters in Indianapolis on April 5th at the Landmark Keystone Arts Cinema.
Seldom have beauty and pain been so beautifully captured as they are in Lore. Lore's journey is both physical and and transformational, as she attempts to travel with her siblings across Germany towards a safer life while, in the process, coming face-to-face with the atrocities committed by those she believed in and, as well, the innocence and humanity contained in those she hated.
Lore is filmed in both German and English with subtitles. While I would have easily said the world sure doesn't need another film about World War II, I will more easily say Lore is a film you simply don't want to miss.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic