The German word Vergangenheitsbewältigung, meaning “coming-to-terms-with-the-past”, reverberates throughout Shortland’s beautifully assured film.
Taking a fairytale trope of the trip to Grandma’s, and relocating it in the final days of the Third Reich, Lore is at once a mesmerising and haunting ordeal. Telling this German tale is Australian Cate Shortland, who returns to the silver screen eight years after stunning critics with her debut Somersault.
Adapted from a story within Rachel Seiffert’s 2001 novel The Dark Room, Lore is named after its lead character, a teenager and eldest child (a spectacular debut by Saskia Rosendahl). Lore is entrusted with the safety of her four siblings (one still a babe-in-arms) after their SS Officer father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) disappears and their mother (Ursina Lardi) prepares to be incarcerated by the approaching Allied forces. On their perilous journey across the newly conquered Germany to “Oma’s”, the children meet curious stranger, Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), and their fates become intertwined.
Shot by Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom) in a stunning series of tableaux – romantic, eerie and breathtaking in turn – the film’s visuals match its thematic heft, held aloft by Rosendahl’s stoic grace. The result is an unforgettable journey into the heart of Germany’s dark past.
4 1/2 Stars
Published in the September 2012 Issue of Limelight Magazine