Australian Director Cate Shortland first came to prominence with Somersault (2004), which starred Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington. For Lore, Shortland has adapted Rachel Seiffert’s ‘The Dark Room’ short story, she directs again but this time explores a very different world, to create a devastatingly powerful Germany-set drama, set in the final days of World War II.
When Lore’s (Saskia Rosendahl) SS parents are taken into custody, she must lead her siblings to the safety of their grandparent’s home from the Black Forest to Hamburg, some 600 miles away, by whatever means necessary. Rosendahl’s Lore is deftly balanced between the strength in her convictions but also inhabits an undoubted naïve streak in temperament, this stemming from her days as part of the foreboding Hitler Youth, but as the journey continues, it’s obvious to see the influence from her incarcerated father and mother have shaped many of her ideals.
As Lore takes her younger sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twins Gunter (André Frid) and Jurgen (Mika Seidel) and baby brother Peter on foot across a war-torn collapsing Germany, she encounters Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a young Jewish death camp survivor. Although, at first, we see that she’s sickened by his very existence, an unexplained connection begins to grow, as Thomas helps them in desperate situations and her opinions being to change.
Lore explores a side of Nazi Germany that is rarely seen on screen and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw also creates such a measured mix of beauty and bleak on film, it’s impossible to not notice all sides of intention and the consequential questions this raises. You will not necessarily sympathise with Lore and her siblings but it will open your eyes to another perspective or understanding and this is daring work by Shortland. It’s also true to say that Rosendahl is a compelling talent in the lead and plays an extremely complex character with maturity beyond her years.
Cate Shortland‘s film is consciously slow paced, and while you may not initially feel tied to the ensemble, the innocence, intelligence and exploratory nature of the film is unquestionably unforgettable.