Explore the toll taken on the lives of German citizens who had supported the war effort
Published: March 6, 2013
Directed by Cate Shortland
Now playing at the Charles Theatre
Most World War II movies paint a picture of a purely evil Nazi party and a supportive German populace that identifies with that bloodthirsty machine’s rhetoric and practices. Little has been done to show the toll taken on the lives of German citizens who had supported the war effort, especially the young women and children. Lore, however, fills this void, following the journey of five German siblings—the children of two Nazi SS officers—as they make their way through their newly hostile homeland after the fall of the Nazi party.
The movie’s namesake, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), is an blond-haired teenage girl who gives the film an unorthodox approach in a genre that usually relies on a strong male protagonists (Schindler’s List, Defiance, Saving Private Ryan, etc). If captured, Lore and her siblings could face execution at the hands of the Allied forces. Knowing this, the family is stricken with paranoia at every turn. The post-war environment is also rife with sexual tension. Whether that tension is threatening or romantic, writer and director Cate Shortland often focuses on the immediate physical threats that loom on Lore’s horizon. At one point the family finds a woman’s body essentially discarded in an abandoned house, blood and scratches cover her thighs. Found in the same hovel is Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a mysterious man who becomes a more direct physical and philosophical imposition on Lore.
A dark-haired man in his early 20’s, Thomas is a bit of a sphinx, never really vocalizing his intentions or his backstory. At first, he maintains a safe distance from the children, following them from camp to camp, always with his eyes focused on Lore. Lore and the other children strike up an uneasy alliance with him since he possesses papers to get them across dangerous checkpoints. In turn, he benefits from the food given out of sympathy to the youngest children.
Though Thomas joins the group of youngsters, his air of mystery is amplified. At times, he’s menacing, cold, and unflinching; other times, he’s caring, gentle, and contemplative. There is an understated sexual tension between Thomas and Lore which wavers between Lore’s fear and increasing attraction to him. In their first scene alone together, Thomas corners Lore, though he quickly retreats. After some time traveling as a unit, Lore approaches Thomas sensually, bewildering him. Thomas is so thrown, he refuses her advances. How Lore processes this, against her ever-present prejudices is where this quiet movie really hits its stride.
In one scene, Lore destroys several porcelain sculptures leaving their varied hollow shells scattered at her feet. In the wake of her experiences, the realities of the world dashed the idealism she had once built up about herself and her country. Like the shattered pieces of porcelain at her feet, Lore is forever changed.
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