'Lore' Is a Coming of Age Story That Dives Into the Sinister

Cate Shortland's fantastic sophomore film asks the question: Were there any good Germans during WWII?


Director: Cate Shortland
Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Khai Malina, Nele Trebs
Distributor: Music Box
Rated: R
Release date: 2013-05-07

Since we were children we have been taught that Germany equaled pure evil during World War II. Period. We all know how Adolf Hitler’s Nazism established a murderous regime that exterminated everyone who was deemed 'different'. The stories about the Holocaust have been told time and time again by the movies and until now, the very idea of contemplating that something good existed in Germany during that era seems like blasphemy. Yet here we have Lore, a harsh film which makes us wonder if we’ve been wrong about the broad stereotyping.

Judging history in hindsight allows us to not only feel fortunate of having escaped whatever event we’re considering, but also invites us to exert partiality, since we often look back, or down, at history through the lens of our upbringing, which is affected by our personal moral codes and societal parameters. Watching Lore will undoubtedly ignite anger in viewers who feel like this is a subject that should never be touched, while illuminating younger generations and suggesting that maybe the way we digest our history is not always adequate.

The film centers on the title character, a teenager (played by Saskia Rosendahl) who one day finds herself having to look after her brothers and sisters, when her parents -- both high ranking Nazis -- are taken away by Allied occupation forces. Immediately we are given a completely new point of view; in this movie the Allies are the villain! Lore and her four siblings are forced to leave their home and travel by foot across the Black Forest towards their grandmother’s house in Husum Bay.

To say that Lore sounds like a fairy tale wouldn’t be so far from the truth, since director Cate Shortland carefully takes the forests and turns them into endless sources of wonders and horror. It’s there where Lore meets Thomas (played by the boyishly handsome Kai Malina) a fellow wandering traveler who also happens to be a Jew -- or is he? -- making the children face the very thing they've been conditioned to despise. Things get complicated when Lore realizes she might be having lustful thoughts about the young man, but how can she when he and his kind are the reason why the Allies took away everything they had?

Lore is certainly complex in how there’s never just one single point of view. We see a man -- who might’ve been a regular family man at some point -- become a rapist and in the first scenes we see how Lore’s adoring father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) turns from being a myth, to becoming the man forced to shoot the family dog. The film isn’t an easy watch, which is why it’s curious that the cinematography (imagine Jane Campion and Terrence Malick doing a movie together) is so dreamlike and beautiful. Color becomes a very important part of the movie as the camera allows us to almost inhale it, in a way recreating what this devastated world must’ve felt like for the characters.

Cate Shortland has made two films in nine years, which makes her self assuredness behind the camera a true marvel to behold, especially because Lore is both near and far from her debut, the stunning Somersault. In both movies Shortland takes a look at the essence of being a woman, and while in the first one she lets more traditional drama pave the way for an insightful self discovery, in Lore she lets external factors determine who this young woman will become. Will she grow up hating Jews and the Allies? Will she at some point understand that what her parents were doing was wrong? Can she reconcile the idea of her parents being parents -- and being Nazis? Shortland offers no answers and by the end of Lore we’ve allowed her to seep into our minds, as well.

Lore is a stunning movie, and Music Box Films have done a terrific job in bringing it to home media. The Blu-ray’s 1080 transfer allows for the Super 16 elements in the movie to come alive in an unexpected way, sometimes making scenes look like impressionist works of art. The sound mix is equally good, although there is not much to listen to here in terms of bombastic effects, except perhaps for Max Richter’s minimalist score which will evoke Philip Glass in the minds of some. Bonus features include a making of featurette, deleted scenes (including an alternate ending declared too corny by the director) and a trailer.

The most interesting bonus feature is a short documentary chronicling the life of Angela Greiner, a German woman who was Lore’s age during the war and who recounts her experiences, adding surprising realism to the film’s context. Overall, this Blu-ray edition is fantastic.


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