Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Foreign, Drama, Thriller, War
Run Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes, Not Rated
Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, Andre Frid, Mika Seidel, Ursina Lardi
Co-Written & Directed by Cate Shortland (Somersault)
Where are the foreign comedies? It seems that every foreign film that makes it to stateside theaters deals with heavily dramatic fare, usually involving powerful, often times depressing, subject matter. But when such a film if beautifully made like Lore (now playing exclusively at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak), all is forgiven.
"Beautiful" may be the wrong descriptive word for the subject of this raw film, but there is beauty in hope, a virtue that lingers just off the frame throughout much of Lore. It centers on a young German girl named Lore (pronounced Lor-ay and portrayed wonderfully by first-time actress Saskia Rosendahl), in the final months of WWII. She is the oldest of five (she has a slightly younger sister, toddler twin brothers and a newborn sibling) to her Nazi parents and to say that her life is not all that good would be an understatement. Her father is a Nazi General (Hans-Jochen Wagner) who is lost as the Allies sweep into Germany, and when her mother turns herself in to the opposition, Lore finds herself suddenly thrust into a maternal role as the caretaker of her family.
With little food or purpose, Lore must transport what is left of her family a long distance to Hamburg, where her "Omi" (grandmother) lives. Along the way she encounters one thing after another that present major challenges to her beliefs, her world and all that is familiar to her.
Though most of the film takes us on this journey with Lore, it is the early scenes that really linger as powerful. We see her glimpse through a crack in the wall at her brutally tough father, a man who has no problem lying to Lore and has no sympathy for her either. Her broken mother has already left her family mentally before she chooses to do so physically. As we all know, no matter the circumstances, it is impossible to grow up without the influence of our parents and as we experience Lore's journey we understand certain choices she makes based on what she has come to know.
The story does not shy away from the reality of her situation and the visual style created by co-writer and director Cate Shortland borders on poetic. As harsh and unflinching as the movie is, there is a gentleness to how it flows. When Lore encounters a Jewish boy whom she must lean on in order to survive, we begin to see her mind open up, just as we literally get to see the film expand its scope.
This is one of the toughest coming-of-age stories you may ever see and it is no surprise that it was selected as the official entry from Australia for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film (although it failed to make the Oscar short list). With countless films dealing with World War II, it was especially interesting to see a point of view expressed that we rarely get to see, that of a young German who grew up knowing nothing of the horrors taking place around her.
Lore is a film about truths, not all of which are pretty.
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