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2012 | 109 min | Not rated | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 08 February, 2013
 22 February, 2013

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Screenshots from Lore Blu-ray

Lore Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 13, 2013

“Lore” is a post-WWII picture, but don’t let the relative familiarity of the setting fool you. This is a powerful, sensorial effort to understand the mentality of hate and its programmed origins, mixed with a survival story set during a dark period of countrywide evaluation. Exceptionally crafted by director Cate Shortland, “Lore” is a film of few words but contains robust atmosphere, sifting through the pieces of soulful wreckage with an unflinching concentration on the erosion of routine and the bitter challenges of truth, using a quaking Malickian visual sense of nature and intimate struggle to bring a troubling tale of acceptance to the screen.

With the death of Hitler, Germany is falling apart in 1945. Rushing home to ship his family off to a rural village for safekeeping, Vati (Hans-Jochen Wagner) knows the end is near, especially for Nazi officers. Now on her own, Mutti (Ursina Lardi) struggles to provide for her five children, including eldest Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), a girl raised firmly to believe in Nazi rule, having trouble processing the sweeping changes facing her country. Facing resentment by the village, food and materials are scare, while Lore is dealt a particularly harsh blow when Mutti is ordered to report to a labor camp, instructing her daughter to travel to Hamburg and find shelter with family. Packing valuables and her infant brother, Lore and her siblings begin an arduous journey across a shell-shocked land, discovering the reality of war firsthand. Their only aid is Thomas (Kai Malina), a Jewish man without a home, drawn to Lore’s beauty, only to find her seething with disgust as her hateful upbringing is challenged by generosity from her enemy.

An Australian/German co-production, “Lore” is based on the 2001 Rachel Seiffert book, “The Dark Room,” though its literary origins are often difficult to spot. Shortland removes a grand sweep of storytelling to live in the moment, peeling the material to its core impulses of survival and judgment, studying the titular character as closely as possible to extract the complexity of realizations hitting her all at once. While the minutiae of WWII has been examined with extreme repetition in filmmaking for some time now, “Lore” finds a specialized angle of sympathy to inspect, eschewing adult perspective to isolate the silent agony of German youth and their realization that their Fuhrer, a man they were taught was infallible, was no monolith of honor, an understanding first experienced with the abrupt removal and imprisonment of their parents.

It’s that shattered system of beliefs that provides “Lore” with rich dramatic ground to cover, watching the young German girl try to cope with the teachings of her Nazi parents, remaining inflexible in the presence of her younger siblings. In a stunning performance from newcomer Rosendahl (blessed with crisp, expressive features), Lore is presented as an obstinate girl following domestic routine, sheltered from real world developments all her life. However, there’s no lightning bolt of realization here, but a process of educational osmosis, gathered through the wearying experience of travel across the tattered remains of her homeland (littered with the raped and the dead) and photographic evidence of concentration camps, which disgruntled residents are ordered to study to receive food rations. Even with the country divided by invading forces and proof of calamity is presented, there’s still a chokehold of national pride alive in hearts of the Germans, finding one lady who allows Lore and her charges into her home for a rest professing disbelief with the evidence, remaining faithful to Hitler to the bitter end.

When Thomas enters the story, Lore’s belief system is forever altered, watching a young Jewish man work to protect the children without demand of restitution. Clearly attracted to Lore and the human comfort she possesses after years of untold horrors and the loss of his family, Thomas is a spoiler in the girl’s narrow worldview. The resulting lashes of confusion and anger are expertly mined by Shortland, who examines the thawing ice between the two, despite Lore’s dedication to her vile teachings.

Trekking through forests and mud, washing in rivers, and sleeping in dilapidated houses, the travel element of “Lore” is artistically rendered as a naturalistic event, with patient cinematography of breezy environments, while dramatic incidents are gifted a verite feel, though the spastic handheld camerawork borders on self-parody at times. Shortland strives for intimacy and achieves a sensation of vulnerability and pain while dabbling in greater incidents of sacrifice and loss. It’s a burning portrait of consciousness and endurance, gracefully acted and strikingly realized, producing an honest sense of emotional disruption, while concluding on a powerful note of cultural and familial rejection.

Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Ursina Lardi, Kai-Peter Malina, Sven Pippig, Philip Wiegratz, Hans-Jochen Wagner
Director: Cate Shortland

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