Thursday, 21 February 2013

Lore, dir. Cate Shortland, wr. Robin Mukherjee, Cate Shortland, based on The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, st. Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, Ursina Lardi

In many ways a more poetic, less overwrought companion piece to Mark Herman's The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas in its depiction of children being forcibly confronted with the realities and horrors of the Holocaust, Lore is desperately penetrating in its impassive and bleak storytelling. World War Two is over, the F├╝hrer is dead, and all over Germany, people await an uncertain future. At her rather grand family home, Lore (Rosendahl) watches as her SS officer Father burns his papers and her Mother sets about organising their exodus to the countryside, an environment that may or may not prove a sanctuary from the invading forces. Lore and her four siblings soon find themselves having to fend for themselves, aided only by a near-silent guide of sorts - Thomas - who's carrying Jewish papers, and this is really when the film begins its exploratory journey into darker realms. How does one unlearn those delicate parameters established by one's parents? What happens when notions of morality, right and wrong, good and bad are challenged, and how do these conflict with innate survival instincts? Cate Shortland, whose 2004 feature debut Somersault dealt with similarly esoteric themes of the convergence of child- and adulthood, paints a rather grim picture of adolescence, dependence, responsibility and burgeoning sexuality, yet Lore is composed in the most anempathically sensuous way; long dewy blades of grass, broken and furled rivets of farmland, dense mists that hang in valleys and troughs lend a lyricism to the desolation in the narrative. Out of all this comes Lore herself (in an aggressively intelligent performance from Saskia Rosendahl), a character that oscillates wildly between rooted principles and emerging awareness at her country's - and her own - new predicament. In a scene where Thomas threatens to abandon Lore and her family, Lore's impassioned begging flips unsettlingly between anti-Semitic hate and despondent pleading. There's an eeriness that permeates Lore that is as disquieting to watch as it is compelling. So little of outside events are depicted that Lore and her siblings' trek through an altered physical and unseen political landscape is that much more palpable; the world is shifting between her feet, and for the young, comprehension is as abstract and elusive as the reality of a fairytale. A delicate and sobering film.