Cate Shortland’s Lore takes a less-traveled look at post-WWII society, focusing on not only the German side, but specifically its children. Following one such set of siblings in an extreme case of despair, Shortland’s film captures the hopelessness of the German people in the immediate aftermath of Hitler’s death. The downside of that accuracy, however, is nearly two hours of misery, and without a significant ray of light on which to latch, the film’s value is limited by this persistent bleakness.
After her mother (Ursina Lardi) and father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) go to an Allied prisoner’s camp, teenage Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) must lead her sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twin brothers Gunter (Andre Frid) and Jurgen (Mika Seidel), and baby brother Peter (Nick Holaschke) cross-country to their grandmother’s house in Hamburg. Bartering for food with a bagful of trinkets, the siblings trek through pastoral scenes of nature that somewhat counteract their plight, though just as often feature squalor and a brutal indifference that add to the pain.
Along with endless wailing from little Peter, the children’s terrifying predicament is thoroughly conceived, thanks in no small part to its invested cast. Caught between adolescence and adulthood, Rosendahl has the ability to alter her appearance just enough to match her maturity for a particular scene, be it youthful or mature beyond her years. Such a chameleon effect serves as a needed anchor in the film’s more difficult moments, providing a welcome human element amidst rampant soullessness. Likewise helpful is Jewish refugee Thomas (Kai Malina), a fellow wanderer at once a threat and an ally. Taught to loathe his ilk, Lore nonetheless recognizes a helping hand when she sees one and the complexity of their relationship elevates the film whenever Thomas is onscreen.
Even so, Lore remains a depressing affair and does itself a disservice in its portrayal of its heroine’s growth. Either as payment for assistance or a last-ditch effort to lose her virginity before a looming death, Lore’s moments of sexual awakening occur at random and are largely unfounded. On the heels of recoiling at Thomas’ Jewishness, despite her desperation it’s still odd for her to then make an advance with little sign of reconsideration. It’s similarly difficult to buy her grand transformation at the film’s end, as while she overcomes a great deal, she’s all but stubborn in regard to her beliefs up to that point. Positive epiphany aside, the manner with which Lore displays her revelation only adds to the sorrow, and minus a notable alternative, Shortland merely leaves viewers to soak in the gloom of honesty.
Lore is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.