It is always a risky venture to tell a story set during World War II from the Nazi perspective. Trying to provide a thoughtful examination, without watering down the content, of those whom many would deem monsters is a challenge for even the most skilled director. Fortunately Australian filmmaker, Cate Shortland, is up to the challenge with her beautiful and haunting film Lore.
Lore is a film that picks up right as the Germans are losing the war and word of Hitler’s death begins to spread. After her SS father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and mother (Ursina Lardi) are imprisoned, and seemingly murdered, for their part in the war, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is left in charge of her four younger siblings. Promising her mother that she would take the siblings – younger sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twins Jurgen (Mika Seidel) and Gunther (Andrei Frid) and baby brother, Peter (Nick Holaschke) – to their grandmothers house in Hamburg, Lore sets out on a journey across the German countryside. Unfortunately for Lore and her family, the German landscape has changed drastically as the country has been divided into sections in which American, British, and Russian soldiers now occupy.
If trying to navigate through the landscape was not difficult enough, Lore begins to see the darker side of life. Taught by her parents that everything the Hitler does is out of pure love for his people, Lore is startled to see the newspaper clippings of SS soldiers beside mass Jewish grave sites. Despite not wanting to believe the clippings are real, Lore cannot shake the notion that everything she was taught may in fact be a lie.
To further complicate matters, Lore finds herself having to rely on the aid of a young Jewish man named Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina). Though Lore tries to adhere to her parents’ teachings about Jewish people, her teenage hormones cannot hide her sexual attraction Thomas. As Lore wrestles with her responsibility to her siblings and her feelings for Thomas, her eyes are opened to a horrific world that she not only never knew existed, but will ultimately change her life forever.
Lore has been selected as Australia’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, and it would be shocking if this film does not make the final cut…or at least the shortlist. Cate Shortland’s film is both visually and emotionally stunning. In every aspect, especially the pacing, Shortland makes sure to take great care in how the story unfolds. Unlike any other coming of age tale you are likely to see this year, Lore packs an emotional punch that will stay with you long after. The film offers a bleak, but realistic portrayal, of what life was like for many Germans who were displaced during the war.
By looking at the war through the eyes of Nazi youth, Shortland is able to bring real resonance to her coming of age tale. She not only focuses on Lore’s relationship with Thomas, but how the other children interact with him as well. Being the oldest sibling Lore has been subjected to her parent’s teachings the longest, whereas her younger siblings quickly take to Thomas because he is genuinely nice to them and does what he has to in order to ensure there is always food. This dynamic is played out so well that it only enhances the emotional impact in the latter part of the film when major events take place.
The cast does a good job from top to bottom, but it is Saskia Rosendahl who deserves the most praise. Although the film is strong from a technical standpoint, Rosendahl is the pin that holds the film together. She manages to make Lore a compelling character throughout the entire film. Despite being her first major role, Rosendahl has the raw talent that should provide a thrilling acting career moving forward.
Lore is a film that does not shy away from its bleak and emotional core. As a result it is a film that lingers with you days after viewing. Beautifully shot, smartly written, and featuring an outstanding performance by Saskia Rosendahl, Lore is one of the year’s must see films.