Genre(s): Drama, War
Director(s): Cate Shortland
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
As a society, we have a hard time letting go of preconceived notions. The idea of someone being something more or less than what we were told ends up bewildering more so than enlightening, with World War II arguably being the best example. There’s no need to delve into the politics of it all, as anyone who has lived long enough already has in their mind that Nazis were bad and the Jewish population was unfairly persecuted. The trick now is being able to step away from a generalization and look at each person individually, deciding for yourself who is bad and who is good. Lore is a story of just that: breaking away from previously held convictions, and trying to find yourself in a world that has so radically changed. Cate Shortland has wonderfully adapted Rachel Seiffert’s novel, The Dark Room, and presented a breakthrough performance from newcomer Saskia Rosendahl, a talented actress that will surely be going places.
Lore is a film that writhes in its emotion, with a premise that instantly intrigues and hints at what will be a harrowing, and often times chilling movie. Saskia Rosendahl plays the eldest daughter of Nazi parents, Hannelore (or Lore, as most call her), and after they are forced to abandon their home and subsequently leave their children behind, Lore takes the lead in bringing her four siblings to their grandmother. What follows is a trek through the wilderness, crossing paths with soldiers, Jewish civilians, loyal followers of Hitler, and the most perplexing of all, Lore’s own understanding of the world. She sees photos of what the Nazi soldiers did to the Jewish people, but is never explicitly told what happened. She’s confused, as any person would be when they spend their entire life told one thing, then finding out it has all changed. If there’s a silver lining, she can’t find it. Perhaps the most significant moment of all is when she realizes it will never be the same, and that her world has changed too much to go back to the way it was, as she foolishly believes will happen in the beginning.
All of this introspection and eventual realization is conveyed almost entirely by expressions. Rosendahl is triumphant as a girl that is forced to just take in what is happening and decide for herself what the right path is. Lore is an acting film, led by an actor who has never done a feature length film before. The camera sets its focus on her face, swaying itself with the state of her emotions, shaking when things aren’t certain, relaxing in the moments of peacefulness. Shortland knows what to focus on and when to take note of a certain object or a setting. Because of this there are many instances of scenes that are grim and chilling, whether it be a decaying body, or just the cold, dead stare of Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina). Thomas is the character that most embodies the film because he’s as unknown to the audience as this new world is to Lore. His blank stare and ambiguity is troubling to her, and reminds her of her last image of her father: abusive and cold. Not only this, but he’s Jewish, someone who she has been trained to hate with a blind passion, just as the rest of society was soon trained to hate Nazis and Nazi sympathizers.
The film packs a powerful punch because of its cinematography, acting, and a very understated score that drives home any tension or emotional impact we’re intended to have. It really carries the same desolate vibe that The Road does, using the surrounding environment as a means to relate to the characters, and making beauty out of a wretched world. What parts solidified this film as incredible for me though, were the moments when Lore showed conviction, an understanding of what is right and wrong, as well as when we as the audience finally realize what change has occurred in her. The power of a single object and its meaning really helps to achieve ultimate clarity in a situation. There are some emotional beats that help show the path to her realization, but it isn’t until her final breakdown that we see that she has learned something. Something that wasn’t instilled in her by someone else (though perhaps there was help to push her in that direction) and realized by herself, after this long journey through many prejudices and biases. Lore accomplishes in portraying a girl lost in another world (a real Alice in Wonderland story) because of Rosendahl’s strong lead performance, a real sense of what’s important from the camera, and an unflinching honest depiction of what it would be like to live in Lore’s situation.
Screening courtesy of the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival