Film Review: ‘Lore’

Saskia Rosendahl plays the daughter of Nazis in "Lore," out now. CREDIT: Music Box Films
Saskia Rosendahl plays the daughter of Nazis in “Lore”
CREDIT: Music Box Films

Director: Cate Shortland
Stars: Saskia Rosendahl, Kal Malina
Rated: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Though doing this has never done anything to diminish its power as a cultural force, there are those who don’t mind pointing out that “Gone With the Wind” concerns the end of the Civil War from the wrong side. The new film “Lore” is even more bold: its protagonists are the children of a Nazi SS officer and his just as passionate wife. It’s a sympathetic portrayal, however, only in that these are people struggling to find a new identity after their old one had finally been revealed as, to put it lightly, wrong.

As mom and dad are scuttled off to certain death, their titular teenage daughter (Saskia Rosendahl) is forced to tend to her three much younger siblings. They are all products of a cloistered existence, and thus prone to traits that have, in Germany during Year Zero, become suddenly, shall we say, gauche. Traveling 500 kilometers to their grandmother’s Hamburg home, switching from opulence to begging for scraps of food from disapproving citizens, they team up with a young Jewish survivor-type (Kai Malina). Even as he’s protected them (or tried to), Lore can’t help but shoot him an anti-semitic slur, even as he awakens in her feelings both intellectual and sexual.

“Lore” doesn’t shy away from reminding us of our characters’ bad side, even as it spends most of its time humanizing them. Aussie director Cate Shortland previously made the 2004 character study “Somersault,” and “Lore” is likewise tastefully observational. Her filmmaking is heavy with sensual long lens shots where only specific items in the frame are in focus, her actors directed in a purely visual manner. “Somersault” featured a fantastic performance from then-unknown Abbie Cornish (plus a not bad one from another newbie, Sam Worthington), and it was one largely sculpted from takes of her mostly doing everything but talking. Rosendahl, who looks uncannily Cornish-ish, is a similar find, her performance all in her face, not in her words.

Life in Germany immediately after the fall of the Nazi Party is not terribly well-covered, in general and particularly in film. Even the so-called “rubble films” — downer, documentary-style dramas from the late ‘40s, set amidst a society plagued by devastation both physical and psychological — tend to skirt the real issues. “Lore” deserves points for “going there,” even if it sometimes reduces its Nazi youth characters to victims of a mean German populace. It’s a touch too pat: Lore goes from ignorant to enlightened, politically and sexually. But more often than not it gets it just right.


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