By Don Simpson | February 5, 2013
Director: Cate Shortland
Writers: Cate Shortland (screenplay), Robin Mukherjee (screenplay), Rachel Seiffert (novel)
Starring: 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
When we first meet Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), she seems innocent enough. She is taking a bath when her father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) — an officer in the SS who has been off at war — arrives at their home in a military vehicle. Lore runs over to the bathroom window, naked and sopping wet, to see what is going on.
By the time Lore gets dressed and scampers downstairs, her family has already commenced packing their belongings. The Allied forces have taken control of Germany, so Lore’s mother (Ursina Lardi) must hide her family in a secluded cabin, while her husband goes off to face the punishment of the American military. It is not long before Lore’s mother must join her husband, leaving Lore as the sole teenage guardian of her young siblings.
Lore must not only accept the fact that her parents are gone forever, but also that Hitler is dead and the Nazis have been defeated by the Allied forces; as a young, indoctrinated Hitler youth, it is difficult to tell which news is more difficult for Lore to comprehend. Regardless, Lore is left with no other option than to lead her young siblings hundreds of miles across an Allied-controlled Germany to Hamburg. It is a harrowing journey, riddled with revelations of the “truth” about Hitler and the Nazis. National pride is the only “truth” that Lore knows, and suddenly the Allied forces are trying to rip that away from her with photos of dead Jews in concentration camps.
I know, I know… We need another World War II film like we need another world war, but Cate Shortland’s Lore is much different than any WWII film that I have ever seen. The perspective and sympathies are unique, though incredibly complicated. We are given Lore, a morally questionable protagonist; someone we have every reason to hate, yet she still warrants some of our sympathies. At the very least, Lore’s eternal struggle to keep her siblings safe and fed grants her some level of respectability. Besides, isn’t her narrow-mindedness just a product of her upbringing? She has never known anything else, is that her fault? Other than her warped beliefs, Lore did nothing wrong during the war, yet she is treated by foreign military forces as a criminal. Can a young teenage girl really be held responsible for the actions of her country? Sure, Lore blindly worshiped Hitler, but that was only because her parents did.
Sure, in writing it may sound like Lore is a bit too sympathetic towards a young Nazi girl; but by experiencing the film firsthand, we are shown the horrors of brainwashing, whether it be by one’s family, political party, or religion. Shortland reveals the tragic effects that narrow-minded ideologies have on children, especially when the facade of said ideology is ripped apart at its seams.
Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw shoots Lore somewhat similarly to the way he approached The Snowtown Murders and Animal Kingdom; meshing gritty in-your-face realism with transcendent, visual poeticism. The unbridled naturalism totally immerses the viewer into this morally confounding narrative; the camera places us so close to Lore, that we are practically walking in her shoes. That is precisely what makes Lore so effective and so damn near perfect — well, that and the brilliant break-out performance by Saskia Rosendahl as Lore. No matter how close the camera places us within the narrative, it is Rosendahl who draws us in. Rosendahl plays Lore like an animal who woos her prey, convincing us to acclimate to her. It is utterly impossible to wiggle from her grasp, once we become fixated on those all-so-innocent eyes of hers.