Film Review – Lore
In Lore, a German child’s innocence is broken when struggling to survive during World War II. Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is the eldest daughter of a prominent SS member and a mother who is a true believer in Hitler. Lore’s mother and father leave her and her siblings, believing that the children could be killed or imprisoned if found with them when they are forced to leave their home near the end of the war. Lore must take her younger siblings, including her baby brother, across Germany to get to Hamburg where their grandmother is.
While the children are traveling, a young man, Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), starts to follow them for reasons that are never made fully clear. He is attracted to Lore, which seems to be his main reason for following them, and being a family with a baby allows them to get more food when they stop at ration areas. Thomas in turn helps them. He has his papers, so he can travel, and he claims to be their brother so they can get through areas easier. It is more complicated for Lore when she sees from his papers that he is Jewish.
While Lore is disgusted by Thomas, she does recognize his helpfulness, and never discloses his “true” nature to her younger siblings. He himself is a cipher, as far as why he is with them, yet is shown to be willing to do some horrible things to keep them all alive and moving. Lore is unclear about what she feels for him, going from being openly hostile one moment to being dependent on him to survive the next. This makes for a strange relationship that is complicated, and in many cases becomes confusing.
Along with these interactions with Thomas, Lore is confronted early on with the pictures of concentration camp victims. She also hears from several Germans who are still true believers in Hitler that these picture are lies that the Americans are spreading, and that it isn’t as terrible as the pictures show. Along with these viewpoints, she gets to see the bitter truths of death for many Germans. She sees a dead woman crawling with ants and a man who committed suicide from a gunshot wound to the eye. The grim reality of defeat for the Germans is laid bare, and the extent that the German society has been integrated into Hitler’s way of thinking is one of the most brutal and honest ways, both for viewers and for Lore, to see what Nazism brought to her country.
The end this story gets us to is something I am wrestling with. Much of the film features the characters trudging along roads or forests, sometimes stopping to sleep, and we get much of Lore and Thomas looking at each other across sleeping bags. This repetition, while effective for the sense of the journey and seeing what Nazism has done, does get boring. The time gives Lore a chance to be challenged by what she has seen and wonder what her feelings are after all that has happened. It is brutal, yet in some ways Lore is such a blank slate beyond her Nazi upbringing that she is still a mystery as to what we should think of her, making the end of her journey feel unsatisfying.
While the full journey feels incomplete, the world it inhabits is visually fascinating. There are some interesting stylistic choices, with an emphasis on intense colors and different camera angles. Lore wears many brightly colored outfits at the start of the film, and even after the family has been walking and are dirty and the clothing is more subdued, she still stands out. When Thomas is first found in the barn house, the room he is in has a red curtain that spreads red light throughout the room. The camera angles are interesting as well, with several shots with the camera on its side or almost upside down as Lore and Thomas lay on the ground or go swimming. These choices are as eye-catching and baffling as they are interesting.
On the whole, the film is well made. Director Cate Shortland has a very interesting visual style, and a real gift for invoking a world that has been corrupted from a belief system of hatred. The time spent in this world gets bogged down at times, and the end result is a feeling of uncertainty for these characters. This makes for an enticing yet struggling viewing experience.
Final Grade: B