Monday, April 01, 2013


Based on The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, Lore is the story of a five siblings who are forced to travel through Germany during World War II after their Nazi parents had been taken by Allied Forces. Directed by Cate Shortland and screenplay by Shortland and Robin Mukherjee, the film is a look into the life of those who has been affected by the war as they struggle to survive and seek shelter during the final days of World War II. Starring Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, and Ursina Lardi. Lore is a harrowing yet mesmerizing film from Cate Shortland.

History is often defined by those who won a war but it often leaves out to those who didn’t win the war. In this film, it is the story about a young woman and her four siblings who have to trek all across Germany from the Black Forest to a small town in Hamburg after her parents had been sent to Allied prisons in the aftermath of World War II. In this journey, the young woman known as Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) has to endure a world that is outside of what she knew as she lived a life that was quaint and safe where she and her siblings were part of the Nazi Youth group. Once the war is over and Germany has become a targeted for their crimes, Lore and her siblings are forced to travel by any means to find safety where they meet a young Jewish man named Thomas (Kai Malina) who would help them find safety through harsh means as well as the fact that they have to evade forces like the Russians who hate the Germans.

The screenplay by Cate Shortland and Robin Mukherjee doesn’t carry a traditional plot as it’s told largely from the perspective of Lore who is this young woman who has a hard time understanding about what Germany’s defeat in World War II means. She’s definitely prejudiced towards Jews while she believes everything that she had been taught as her mother tells her that she and her father will come to them. Yet, Lore eventually realizes that what her mother is saying about coming back is a probably a lie as her journey is one full of harsh truths about the ways of the world and how everything her parents were about was wrong. For her younger siblings in the teenage Liesel (Nele Trebs), her adolescent twin brothers Gunther (Andre Frid) and Jurgen (Mika Seidel), and their toddler brother Peter (Nick Holaschke), the reality of their situation is horrifying as they have no idea how to cope with their new situation.

The script would also play into the sense of development for Lore as she struggles with her feelings towards Thomas whom she’s supposed to despise yet doesn’t understand why he’s helping her. While Lore’s siblings are fond of him, Lore thinks she’ll get sick because he’s a Jew yet she’s also attracted to him. Lore and the kids need Thomas to get them on their way to Husum Bay near Hamburg as he’s the only person that can has a boarding pass that will allow him to cross the different zones in Germany. Especially as they have to evade the Russians who are much more crueler and have no care for Jews making Thomas’s mission just as important. Still, the journey would prove to be one Lore wouldn’t forget as well as the realities that she faces about who her parents really are and everything else she’s learned.

Shortland’s direction is very evocative in the way she presents a world that is very grim and in a state of transition where Germany is in ruins over what happened in World War II. Shot in 16mm film that is blown up into 35mm, Shortland creates something that is very beautiful but also very dreary as the characters have to walk through lands of ruin and despair. A lot of which is presented in wide and medium shots of the actual locations in Germany through its forests and rivers. Even as Shortland also uses close-ups of some of the elements of nature to show a world that is coming back in the wake of war though things are still uneasy.

The direction is also entrancing in the way Shortland frames actors in a scene as well as using close-ups and some shaky hand-held shots to play out some of the film’s emotional moments as well as the harshness of their journey. Particularly as these characters start off in the film walking in their journey with luggage and a baby carriage for the baby and eventually arrive at their destination with very little. Shortland also creates some interesting framing to express the attraction between Lore and Thomas through some simple glance shots while playing to the fact that they’re not supposed to like each other for who they are. The film’s ending is emotional but not in what is expected as it’s more of everything Lore went through in her journey and its outcome. Overall, Shortland creates a very gripping yet intoxicating film about survival and understanding in the aftermath of war.

Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the gorgeous look of many of the film‘s exterior scenes with its lush coloring of the forests to play up its beauty and despair as well as some scenes set in night. Editor Veronika Jenet does amazing work with the film‘s very unconventional editing with its emphasis on jump-cuts to create unusual rhythms for the film‘s action and dramatic moments. Production designers Jochen Dehn and Silke Fischer do excellent work with the look of the homes the characters encounter as well as places that are in stark ruin to establish the realities of war.

Costume designer Stefanie Bieker does nice work with the colorful dresses that Lore and Liesel wear to establish the background they come from as well as the more gritty clothes of Thomas. Sound designer Sam Petty does superb work with the sound to capture some of the intimacy of the nature scenes as well as some of the more unsettling moments involving groups of people. The film’s music by Max Richter is wonderful for its low-key yet understated orchestral piano score to play out the despair that the characters encounter.

The casting by Anja Dihrberg is fantastic as it features some notable small roles from Hans-Jochen Wagner and Ursina Lardi as Lore’s parents, Nick Holaschke as Lore’s baby brother Peter, and Eva-Maria Hagen as her grandmother at the end of the film. Mika Seidel is very good as the more introverted twin brother Jurgen while Andre Frid is wonderful as the more outgoing twin in Gunther. Nele Trebs is excellent as Lore’s younger sister Liesel who tries to figure out what is going on while questioning Lore’s motives. Kai Malina is great as Thomas as he brings a very understated presence to his role as a Jewish man who is trying to help Lore and her siblings trek through the different landscapes of Germany. Finally, there’s Saskia Rosendahl in a tremendous performance as the titular character as a young woman whose life is changed through the aftermath of war as she has to become a woman and be there for her siblings as they all look to her as it’s a very exhilarating performance from the newcomer.

Lore is a remarkable film from Cate Shortland that features a brilliant performance from newcomer Saskia Rosendahl. While it’s a very bleak film that explores the horrors of war and its aftermath, it’s also a captivating film that reveals a young woman coming to terms with the world she’s in and everything she encounters. In the end, Lore is a phenomenal film from Cate Shortland.

Cate Shortland Films: Somersault - (The Silence (2006 TV film)) - (Berlin Syndrome) - Black Widow (2021 film)

© thevoid99 2013

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