It was always going to be a hard slog for director Cate Shortland to make a film about Nazi guilt, but for me this film couldn’t have been more perfect. The holocaust was a bad thing, a very, very bad thing… but what if you didn’t think so? What if as a child you were raised to believe something, something you didn’t know any other way of thinking about, does that make you the enemy? In Lore, we are presented with a family of Nazi children whose parents have been shipped off to prison as Hitler has died and the war is ending. The children are left alone at the leadership of the eldest, Lore, and she must take her siblings on a long, arduous walk across Germany to their grandmother’s house in Hamburg.
These kids were raised in a nice house by well off members of the Nazi party. They have had a relatively comfortable life; they had no need to question their parents’ beliefs. They believe the evils we know well, but their ideas of wrong and right are drastically skewed from ours. The adults are the evil here, the children are just the victims of an apartheid state of mind, and it isn’t until on their journey they meet a young Jewish man, Thomas, that their world begins to unravel. While the younger four are really too young to comprehend the situation, it is through Lore that we see the shades of realisation of the horror they have been brought into and have to now deal with – her brothers and sisters are inheriting a fractured country that was broken by irreconcilably misdirected beliefs.
From the moment we see Lore in the opening scenes it is hard to take your eyes off her. In her late teens and, while very beautiful, she is so much more. It’s hard to sympathise with her at times – her attitude toward Thomas is repugnant – but it is all part of the process of realising all she knows is wrong. The power of this film is what lies behind her eyes, and watching her innocence shatter as the film progresses in intoxicating. There is a gorgeous scene when they are all lying down and she leaves her hand out behind her head, open, like bait, and Thomas gingerly laces his fingers in hers. You can feel the confusion and conflict running amuck in her mind, feel the sexual tension she is stressing to repress, feel her world crumbling in this one single act. Saskia Rosendhal as Lore is radiant, she is perfect every step of the way, and makes a more than impressive debut to film. The entire cast is shatteringly good, but the real star is cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. I haven’t seen a film this stunning in a long time, and its beauty encapsulated me. Minor shots of the plucking of a comb or dirty feet on the grass remain with me and there isn’t a false frame thrown at you. I let it completely wash over me and it was delicious.
Cate Shortland hasn’t made a feature film since Somersault in 2006, and that was again a beautiful and haunting film. She is an incredibly talented film maker and should be making films more often than she is. I was clutching desperately to this film emotionally from the opening scene and didn’t let go till the end, and it is in that final shot of the film that you truly understand there is so much more to the whole horrific situation than you could ever possibly comprehend.