Australian director Cate Shortland offers up a lyrically poetic WWII drama with her 2012 film, Lore. The film is set in the dying embers of the war, when the Reich has fallen and Hitler has taken his own life. Civilisation is disintegrating and the Nazis are quickly trying to destroy their well documented atrocities.
Lore follows the title character, a teenager who attempts to take her sister and three young brothers across a war ravaged Germany. Her parents have been imprisoned following the invasion of the Allied Forces and Lore must make her way to Hamburg to find safety and refuge with a relative. Lore has to keep her family together, caring for her siblings and offering them hope of reuniting with their parents, even when she learns the truth about what they’ve done.
We’ve seen many stories set during and after the Second World War, but we rarely get to see it from the perspective of the Nazis. It’s a fine line to walk, too sentimental and your audience will detest you for being sympathetic towards some of the worst events known to man. If you are too harsh then the audience won’t be able to engage with your characters. Shortland tells this tale from the perspective of Lore, a teenager who is able to see events as a child and as a burgeoning adult. It’s the right angle, which ditches the over simplification of something like The Boy In The Stripped Pyjamas.
What’s odd about Lore is that if often comes across as a post-apocalyptic tale. The breakdown of civilisation is similar to what we have seen in films such as The Road. However, what makes this so thought provoking is that this isn’t science fiction or speculation. This really happened.
Shortland adapted Lore from Robin Mukherjee’s book, The Dark Room and while the film has an episodic quality, it’s also incredibly well fashioned. Actress Saskia Rosendahl gives an impressive performance as Lore. It’s a tricky role to get right as she is forced to go from wide-eyed innocent to battle worn survivor and she acquits herself admirably. The cinematography by Adam Arkapaw is haunting, reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s dreamlike vistas, while Max Richter’s score underpins the emotion, adding extra dimension to Lore’s journey.
Lore has a lot of layers, and it’s far from being “enjoyable viewing”. However, there’s a richness here, a natural-feeling representation of a specific moment in time, which makes Lore an important film to watch.