Directed by Cate Shortland
Written by Cate Shortland & Robin Mukherjee
In some instances of art, words are not nearly enough to express what is intended, what is needed, what is the amount of its merit and accomplishment. In some instances, images are not nearly enough, a look, a landscape, a held breath can behold the true beauty of it. Cinema is certainly art, an expression of self, of reality, or fantasy, placed in images that can tell a story. Some stories can move us to tears, to fits of laughter, while others still remain with us in our hearts and within our very psyche; and not just minutes after, but hours, days, months, even a lifetime can not suppress the meaning of a story to an individual. We often simply desire to share this experience with others, so that we may bring others to this feeling. I’m going to try as I might, but I know going in that my words can never fully express this film.
That may seem like an overly dramatic introduction to a film review, but it’s a start in expressing to you my utmost appreciation for this film, which is itself very dramatic. Lore is a German film, directed by an Australian woman. The Nazi regime is an easy source for a dramatic story in German film, or really any nationality, but I have not seen a story told from this perspective before. Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is the young daughter of a German officer and his wife, who, at the very end of the war, are seeking refuge in the woods with their family, hiding from certain arrest and possible execution for their support and involvement in the Nazi regime. When her parents desert her, Lore must take her younger sister, younger twin brothers and baby brother Peter on a dangerous journey across the country to make it to their grandmother’s house near Hamburg.
This is no walk in the park, no Red Riding Hood, skipping through the forest looking for Grandmother. What Cate Shortland is able to accomplish with this film is a layered examination into the idea of guilt, and how it affects all of us, whether we know it or not. Nazi guilt has been examined before, but I have never dwelt on the affect on the innocent children, those impressionable young people who lived under the shroud placed over their eyes, the lies their country and their Führer fed them to believe. Shortland leads us daringly into this world through the strength of her title character, Lore, played so beautifully by Saskia Rosendahl, whose central performance really drives the painstaking nature of the film. Hers is a revelatory performance which mirrors her own character’s slow realization of the evils surrounding her.
The film is quite the technical achievement as well, highlighted by the amazing cinematography by Adam Arkapaw. Arkapaw is able to capture images which not just capture the story, but add to it. As the mystery of her surroundings is bleak and confusing, so too are the images. Yet there are fleeting breaks of such beauty, enticing us into a world we know can and will be better, but which in its current state seems like a dream lost in sleep. We have Lore’s world turned upside down by the sudden change. The musical score is spectacular as well, composed by Max Richter. Everything which surrounds Saskia Rosendahl’s performance seems destined to compliment it, to highlight it even more. The best of movies are always those which feature top notch delivery from the entire crew, as it all comes together to make a magical result which can be summed up in no less words than astonishment. Nothing sticks out, everything sticks out as the highlight.
Guilt is not something that is easy to comprehend, especially through the eyes of a character like Lore and her younger siblings. By the end, who among us can truly say we are innocent, yet the evolution of this story is difficult as we see that loss of innocence right before our eyes, as Lore comes to grip with the harsh reality she was never told about, never saw with her own eyes. She is of the age that the veil is lifted a little easier, her younger siblings able to hide behind their age and remain naive, whereas the full brunt of the situation lands upon the ill-prepared, yet strong Lore. This film had such an affect on me, not in the sense of realization, but relation. One sympathizes with such a youth, which may not always be the easiest considering standing from afar, these are the children of the brutal Nazi’s. But that line of guilt is never like a line in the sand. It remains much more blurring, blending the black and white into a million shades of gray. And in the end, we all hold guilt. We cannot escape it, but we still must fight to overcome it.