Youth group – Lore review (Sydney Film Festival)

Lore – Starring Saskia Rosendahl, Kai-Peter Malina, and Nele Trebs. Directed by Cate Shortland. By Simon Miraudo.

Lore plays the Sydney Film Festival on June 10, 2012. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

The history books are written by the winners. Cate Shortland considers what happens to the rest in her devastating World War 2 flick Lore (the long-anticipated follow-up to the AFI-scooping Somersault). Based on Rachel Seiffert’s novel The Dark Room and adapted by Shortland and Robin Mukherjee, this German-language drama is foreboding and filled with disturbing imagery. And just as Somersault launched the career of Abbie Cornish, it too features an astounding central performance from a young actress: Saskia Rosendahl, who is coincidentally something of a ringer for Ms. Cornish.

Proceedings begin as the Nazi machine shudders to a halt and Allied forces take occupation of Germany. Teenage Hannelore (Rosendahl) sees her SS father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and mother (Ursina Lardi) arguing about abandoning their impressive estate. Dad burns the documents, and mom instructs her kids to gather up the silverware. Soon, their dog has a bullet in its head, and the family is on the run. With pop headed back to the frontline, Lore’s mutti must degrade herself to feed the children, including daughter Liesel (Nele Trebs), twins Jürgen (Mika Seidel) and Günther (Andre Frid), as well as little baby Peter. When news arrives that the Führer has taken his life, the heartbroken matriarch decides to hand herself over to the Americans. Lore is instructed to escort her siblings across dangerous terrain to their grandmother’s house in Hamburg; during this journey the young girl will come of age, though not in the heart-warming way we would hope.

If Lore is Red Riding Hood, than Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina) is the Big Bad Wolf she encounters on her trip across the dark forest. After discovering him holed up in an abandoned house, Thomas starts stalking the quintet. He’s a threatening presence, but when he helps them pass by soldiers with his Jewish papers, Lore has no choice but to accept his companionship. Together, they are forced to take drastic action to ensure their survival; actions that challenge our protagonist’s morality. Never mind that she’s a devoted Nazi with a burning hatred for the Juden. It’s funny how certain things seem righteous when you’re exerting dominance, but can seem dirty and desperate when you’re fighting for life.

Shortland’s craftsmanship has only improved since 2004’s Somersault, and that is saying something. Dread slowly builds to a crescendo in Lore, and how it taxes the lead character – who must eventually deal with the consequences of her party’s violent exploits, her parents’ accountability, and her own prejudices – is as visual an experience as it is an emotional one. Shortland is aided by the cinematography of Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom, Snowtown); surely Australia’s best working DOP. Though nary a month goes by without a film about Nazis being released (this year alone we had misogynist Nazis in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, space Nazis in Iron Sky, and Nazi hunters in This Must Be the Place), here is one tale rarely told. Lore will linger long in your memory.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Lore plays the Sydney Film Festival on June 10, 2012. It does not yet have an Australian release date.

One Response to “Youth group – Lore review (Sydney Film Festival)”

  1. such a beautiful, sad, wonderful film. Thanks to Cate Shortland again, Somersault then Lore, worth the wait.

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