The holocaust, Nazis and racism are common themes in many films today. In fact, it almost never fails that 90% of Oscar’s Foreign Language ballot consists of historical films based on the holocaust. ‘Lore’, Australia’s official entry for the Oscar’s last year, is no exception. Taking place in Germany shortly after Hitler’s death, ‘Lore’ gives us a different look at the atrocities, or the aftermath of those atrocities, offering us the perspective of the children brought up to follow Hitler and his regime.
I have to say this; I was completely floored at the direction taken by this film. It is uncommon to find the lives and views of the ‘villains’ exposed with such sympathy. Having the film basically follow these young children as they are abandoned and cast aside because of their beliefs and their parent’s political stance, we are brought in to their world and find ourselves ‘fraternizing’ with the enemy in a way. I loved that aspect of this film. Even though Lore and her siblings are far from ‘enemies’, especially since they are molded by their parents and their surroundings and haven’t the full knowledge or understanding in order to make those decisions on their own, following their journey and seeing their venom spiked forbearance is like something I haven’t seen before.
|Watching Lore mold her persona is astonishing.|
‘Lore’ tells the story of teenage Lore and her younger siblings (sister Liesel, twin brothers Gunter and Jurgen and baby brother Peter) as they fend for themselves after their parents are imprisoned after Hitler’s death. Immediately finding themselves on the outs with everyone in the community, Lore is forced to flee to her grandmother’s home in Hamburg. Fourteen year-old Lore is as composed as she can be, but the journey is more than she can do on her own. That is when she meets a young man named Thomas who offers his assistance. He aids Lore and her siblings on their trek, until she uncovers that he is a Jew. This automatically puts splinters in their relationship, for it causes Lore to question all she was brought up to believe.
The ending is quite devastating, in so many ways.
I must say, this was a refreshing take on a genre that is so well worked it has become somewhat tired. It reminded me, in a way, of ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’, not in overall tone but in the way that it broached the fact that these young ‘Nazi children’ were blinded and manipulated by society and had the ability to transcend their upbringing. That is why that final scene is so devastating, because it shows the growth and the understanding, as bitter as it was, in the eyes of young Lore.
Cate Shorthand directs this film with a beautiful restraint, allowing the honesty of every scene to come through. She reminds me of Jane Campion in her use of imagery (the cinematography here is astonishingly good) and grit. There is no sugarcoating here. The full effect of these dire circumstances is exposed in every scene. There is also a brilliant sense of sensuality that permeates these moments, breaking down the innocence and adding a flare of romance to the proceedings. It’s a brilliant mix of tones. The performances across the board are top notch. Saskia Rosendahl anchors this film with a marvelous sense of balance and awareness. You can watch her crumbling under her composure, always doing her best to be what she needs to be for the betterment of her family. Kai-Peter Malina is mysteriously charming as Thomas. You can see the years of mistreatment that melted his heart, not hardened it (what a beautiful contrast to the usual) and the young children (Trebs, Frid and Seidel) are all very effective. Ursina Lardi pulls out a tremendous cameo as the children’s mother.
For me, this was an incredible film. It carried such a heavy emotional weight, and yet it balanced that with a stunning visual airiness, giving it a light and effortless movement.
I’d give this a solid A (verging on an A+ to be honest). I’m not entirely certain of Oscar’s guidelines, but I believe that if you’ve been submitted for the Foreign Language Oscar then you are ineligible for Oscar consideration in other categories the following year, despite getting a US release. It’s not like Oscar would have bitten on this regardless (it’s not only foreign, but it’s an early in the year release) but it would be nice if this could at least get a cinematography nomination. It won’t. It can’t. But it could snag a Fisti!