Lore is serious, but holds on to a last bit of innocence in the same way that Lore herself does as she makes her way into forced adulthood.
When a movie takes place directly before, during, or after World War II in Germany, there is little doubt the overall feel of the film is going to be dour. Lore is indeed that, but it also offers a unique view of the aftermath of the war.
Lore opens at the beginning of the end of World War II in 1945. 14-year-old Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) hardly has time to enjoy the return of her father, a Nazi leader, before she starts to catch on that things are changing. Her parents start packing up valuables and burning papers, preparing Lore and her younger sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twin brothers Günter and Jürgen (André Frid and Mika Siedel), and baby brother for a trip. The family then moves to a country home, avoiding the American troops as they move across the country.
Food becomes scarce. Lore’s mother Mutti (Ursina Lardi) starts to lose her nerve as news that the Führer has died reaches them. A letter finally arrives and Lore’s mother is called to go to her husband who has been taken into custody. She gives Lore instructions to make their way to their grandmother’s house, promising to meet them there. Lore knows the chances of seeing her parents again are nil, but she’s a Nazi child, and she obeys. Thus begins her awakening, in many ways, to the reality of life and the world she had been raised in.
As Lore leads her siblings on foot across the war-ravaged country she is challenged into adulthood in order to provide for her family and forced to face the lessons her parents and the Nazi party imbued in her. Along the way she and her siblings pick up a straggler, Thomas (Kai Malina), who is oddly attached to this young tribe of siblings. When Lore discovers he’s a Jew, she struggles with her hate for his people and the knowledge that his status in the recently overtaken country may just save their lives.
And so the film takes us through their cross-country travel. One shaky frame, after the next. While the use of hand held camera never fails to add to the realism and severity of a film, in this instance it is somewhat distracting. It’s apparent this technique is meant to add to the discomfort of the film, but at times can just be nauseating. Despite artistic camera choices, there is no denying that Saskia Rosendahl is mesmerizing. She perfectly demonstrates the neurosis forced on her by the heavy hand of Nazi parents.
Half the film seems to take place in baths and rivers. Lore and her siblings constantly wash themselves, demonstrating not only the germophobic nature of the Nazi party but also a metaphorical cleansing. Shedding the layers of the world they were raised in to face the world they now live in. And with each of these baths, where Lore and her sister comb their hair as their mother did, yanking the comb through their hair with disturbing force, Lore begins to see that her life has been built on the one-sidedness of lies.
This film shows another lesser thought of victim of World War II, the impressionable children of the Nazi regime. They not only had their parents taken from them when their leader fell, but also so many shattered illusions of what to expect from the world and how to treat those around them. Australian director and writer Cate Shortland has only a handful of short films and the feature Somersault, which premiered at Cannes in 2004, under her belt but she is proving to be quite graceful with heavy issues. Lore is serious, but holds on to a last bit of innocence in the same way that Lore herself does as she makes her way into forced adulthood.
The journey in Lore is every bit as harrowing as you think it will be. A country in shambles, a young girl raised to hate the one young man who seems to care most about whether she lives or dies, and the unthinkable does happen on their way to grandma’s. And while the end is really just a beginning, as Lore begins to unravel the lies she was raised on, at least we are left feeling that change is possible and the new generation of Germany may not look anything like the old.