Children adrift in Cate Shortland’s LORE

This is an engrossing film about five children from a Nazi family fleeing Germany at the end of the Second World War. They are assisted by a young Jewish man, Thomas, in a superbly understated performance by Kai Malina. Lore, played wonderfully by Saskia Rosendahl, is the oldest of the German children and she has been brought up to be repulsed by Jews, but in these arduous times there is mutual benefit in their association.

When we first meet the father he is in a German officer’s uniform and organising the family’s escape from their stately home to their country retreat. He is taken away and their mother has to hand herself in or she will be arrested. This gives her time to hand over to Lore money and jewellery and tell her to make her way to their grandmother’s house which is eight hundred kilometres away.

The villagers near the country house are hostile and reluctantly sell Lore food. Lore realises they have to leave or face starvation and so their harrowing journey starts. The children encounter deprivation, death and unfamiliar perils on their journey.

This film challenges where our sympathies should lie as there is moral ambiguity in all relationships and most actions. All characters have been damaged by a horrendous war and the responses to the various situations and dilemnas raise interesting and thought provoking questions.

The younger sister Liesel (Nele Trebs) sees Thomas as a good person as he finds food for the starving children. She is slightly younger than Lore and the Nazi indoctrination has not corrupted her child’s innate sense of good. She is not aware of what Thomas has done to survive.

Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw captures the bleakness and brilliantly contrasts it with lush scenes of a beautiful German spring. A lot of their journey is on foot through the beautiful countryside. His use of tightly framed close-ups focuses our attention on minute details. That it is filmed so beautifully adds to the sense of ambiguity. We are looking at the sublime and horrifying simultaneously.

Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Kalina, Ursina Lardi, Nele Trebs, Mika Seidel, André Frid, Hans-Jochen Wagner & Eva-Maria Hagen

Cate Shortland’s LORE opens on limited release 20th September.

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- LORE, Cate Shortland, Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, Adam Arkapaw, Sydney Arts Guide, Mark Pigott