Children of War: Lore tells the tale of a fallen Nazi’s children, and their secret journey to find a home.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
If she keeps making films like the German-language Lore, director Cate Shortland (Somersault, starring Abbie Cornish), should be remembered quite well in the emotional-portrait filmmaking world. In her sophomore effort, Shortland brings the story to the opposite camp of World War II, into a land where Hitler is ruled a great, fallen hero.
After her Nazi-sympathizer mother and SS officer father are imprisoned by American forces in Germany after the fall of the Fuhrer, 14-year-old Lore (fantastically played by Saskia Rosendahl in her debut role) must secretly shepherd her four younger siblings across the country to their grandmother’s home in Hamburg.
Along the way, the family of blond-haired, blue-eyed children meet Thomas (Kai Malina, The White Ribbon), a young refugee hiding under the guise of a dead Jewish man’s papers. His attempts to befriend Lore and her siblings are never reciprocated, as she is unwavering toward the people she has been taught to hate.
Much of the visual beauty of Lore comes from the subtleties in the cinematography. Shot on Super 16mm film stock, nearly every scene shows detailed close-ups of faces, bodies and natural elements – many slide in and out of focus smoothly – giving an overall beautiful haunt to the film. I’m reminded of the great French director Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique (2004), a narrative on violence and morals in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The story itself is believable and well-written (Shortland also wrote the screenplay). The dialogue is not too ambiguous, as some foreign films have the tendency to be, and minus a few confusing conversations, the plot is balanced.
The shortcomings are few, but notable. At points, it seems Shortland sacrifices efficient storytelling for longer, arthouse-driven scenes with sad music and emotional visuals. While I’m a fan of this style, it can come across as laborious to watch. Also, despite Lore’s institutional hatred for Jews, it is hard to believe that as the new matriarch of her siblings, she still chooses to despise Thomas despite his help to get them all food, shelter and safety from the onslaught of American troops.
Though she has been through a lot – death, injury and abandonment from her parents – it is almost too hard to believe how much Lore’s character grows throughout the film.
Lore gives a new look with a new twist on an old war story. Foreign film fans will enjoy the similarities to other contemporary European cinema dealing with deeper issues than solely the physical violence of war, but rather the mental and emotional aspects.
LORE (3) • Directed by Cate Shortland • Starring Saskia Rosendahl, Kai-Peter Malina, Nele Trebs • Not rated • 109 min • At Osio Cinemas