l o r e
22nd February 2013
11th March 2013
Lore deals with the coming of age and sexual awakening of a young girl in 1945, at the end of Nazi Germany. A love story set against the most atrocious of backdrops.
We first see the eponymous Lore in an impressionistic, dreamlike scene in the bath, peering through curtains, a child on the edge of blossoming. She skips happily down the stairs to be picked up by her father whilst her glamorous mother remains lingering in the background, tensely smoking. Very quickly the tone shifts as the family suddenly pack silver and valuables and have to leave. Lore hears her father shoot their family dog, and her awakening begins. The family is put up in a crude barn where Lore spies through curtains at her parents touching each other but intervenes when her father strikes her mother. This marks the start of Lore's rapid journey to adulthood. Soon after arriving her mother tells Lore she has to leave and turn herself in, that the children can't come. It's a striking scene when Lore chases after her mother and they stare at each other for a moment, it's as if Lore has realised in that moment her mother will never again take care of her. She is alone now. Lore has to take care of herself, the baby, her sister and her twin brothers. Thus begins the children’s journey through a Germany nicknamed the Dead Zone, occupied by different countries each bringing different dangers on their way to Omi (grandma)'s house. Atrocities are at every turn, dead bodies; Lore has to pay a woman to breast feed the baby. Utter desperation but also confronting the truth as the Germans are forced to look at awful pictures of the piles of dead Jewish prisoners. As the journey progresses and Lore learns more it makes her more and more distrustful, where is the truth? Along the way they encounter mysterious and handsome Thomas (the excellent Kai Malina), a Jew and all that Lore has been groomed to believe she hates. Thomas helps the children over and over again and her and Lore begin a tormented, painful 'courtship' that is rooted in pain and misunderstanding. The pain ridden physical journey the family is taking runs parallel to Lore's mental journey as her eyes begin slowly to open to all everything she has misunderstood.
Unsurprisingly Lore is no walk in the park. A consistently unsettling and upsetting film based on a story in the Booker Prize-nominated collection ‘The Dark Room’ by Rachel Seiffert. It's not often that Germany has been seen at this time and Shortland, whilst not shying away from the truth, has handled it skillfully and sensitively. An intimate film, lots of close ups and a hand held feeling about it. The cinematography of Adam Arkapow (Snowtown, Animal Kingdom), production and costume design work beautifully together to create an ethereal, impressionistic blue/green tinged world. There's beauty amidst the horror. An early striking scene sees Lore and her sister being rained down on by ashes, making one think of the incinerators of the Jewish camps but it's the Nazi documents being burnt, the evidence of the horror. Lore's eyes are so blue contrasted against Thomas' brown eyes, a perfect Aryan blue.
Saskia Rosendahl is a real find. She is astonishingly good as Lore, physically similar to Abbie Cornish (star of Shortland's first film, the excellent Somersault) Shortland had at first rejected Rosendahl because of her 'porcelain doll' beauty but then she was blown away by her in the audition. It really is a remarkable performance. There are two very similar scenes at the start of the movie and near the end: Lore, freshly washed with wet hair in a crisp white nightgown. The difference in the childlike Lore at the beginning and the young woman Lore is so well executed it is breathtaking. The transformation is complete. The child is no more.
Shortland has said that she feels the film is a hopeful one. On reflection I think I agree with her although I went through quite a lot of other emotions after watching it before settling on something positive. Lore is a testing film, but also impressive and important. I'm looking forward to Shortland's next move.