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by Jay Seaver

"Children adrift in the world their parents made."
5 stars

Set "Lore" in almost any other time and place, and it's an impressive adventure story of a certain type, with fine young actors playing kids who must make an impossible-seeming journey against incredible odds. But it's not set in some generic time period; it's set in the aftermath of World War II, with filmmaker Cate Shortland determined that we not give its title character our sympathy too readily.

See, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is about fifteen, and her parents (Ursina Lardi & Hans-Jochen Wagner) were active in the Nazi party - she a scientist, he a member of the SS. Soon, she is the one left in charge of her siblings: Liesel (Nele Trebs), a few years younger; Günther (André Frid) & Jürgen (Mika Seidel), twins in the mid-single-digits; and newborn Peter. Their grandmother awaits in Hamburg, but the country's infrastructure would be a mess even if the Allies weren't busy dividing it up. Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a young man they encounter along the way, may be able to help, but can the family trust anyone now?

The obvious thing to provide a twist here happens - Thomas does, in fact, have a Star of David stamped on his papers - but it doesn't necessarily happen in the obvious way. Thomas is neither overtly angry and Lore and her family nor some ideally kind-hearted person despite all that has happened to him. Lore learns this through glimpses, and the audience does with her, but doesn't necessarily react immediately, giving everyone involved time to mull things over, and maybe think pragmatically about what they need from each other. Shortland plays things a little ambiguous at times, especially with Thomas's age and what that would make Lore to him between being potential love interest, kid sister, or just a kid. Malina does a nice job of portraying him as both mysterious and complex.

Of course, the performance to watch is newcomer Saskia Rosendahl in the title role, and she makes Lore kind of fascinating. The film, of course, is designed to wear away at her sense of superiority, not so much for being Aryan as much as coming from a privileged background, but she tries to cling to it stubbornly. Even as she matures and compromises over the course of the movie, she does tend to make the audience wonder and worry about the question of just how capable a young mind is of getting to a good place after being filled so full with hateful garbage at a crucial point. It's a tricky thing to make this girl sympathetically in over her head while raising the possibility that she's quite possibly beyond redemption, but Rosendahl and the filmmakers manage it for much longer than one might expect.

In some ways, both taking the perspective of these children and staying away from the large, bombastic displays that define the Nazis in film for later generations makes the whole concept even more frightening - even after the war, we see pictures of Hitler in honored places in homes, with talk about how the German people failed him. There are fascinating looks at the politics and psychology of retribution as neighbors suddenly shun Lore's family and the Allied occupiers force people to confront images from the concentration camps before supplying food and water. It raises the question of how to deal with individuals when a society as a whole does terrible things and lets the audience think about that.

Shortland and company raise those ideas in handsome fashion, too. There are memorable shots of post-war devastation, but it's impressive just how well that feeling carries over when the family's path takes them through pristine woods or physically-intact homes and villages. There's admirable restraint in certain scenes, but not enough for it to feel artificial. And the final scenes of the movie are some of its best, demonstrating how such an ordeal can simultaneously make people more mature and less controlled.

The last scene, especially, is powerful even if it does leave the audience with some uncertainty to go along with its obvious symbolism. "Lore" can be difficult to approach at times and occasionally contradictory, but it certainly packs a punch when it counts.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24124&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/21/13 17:01:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/26/13 Philip This may be considered a masterpiece one day. 5 stars
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  DVD: 28-May-2013



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