Many years ago I became infatuated with a young man who I met while going to Art School; intense and full of bewitching “talk” he seduced me with his language. I was a willing victim. We had a relationship and I eventually found out that he was one of those “wild/lost” children abandoned after World War II in German – living in the forests, foraging for food and survival after his parents were either killed during the War or interned by the Allies. I mention this because LORE, a film directed by The Australian, Cate Shortland shows us another family – 4 young children and a baby (a few months-old infant) that are left to fare for themselves after their Gestapo father is killed, and their mother - one suitcase in tow, disappears into the lush German landscape. The 14 year old eldest daughter Lore, beautifully portrayed by Saskia Rosendahl, is fiercely determined to protect her siblings – just a child herself - Lore is thrust into a bewildering adulthood; a teenager who has lived a good part of her life under National Socialism has passionately internalized Nazi Anti-Semitic propaganda, innocently awaiting Hitler’s victory – unaware of impending defeat and the turbulent uprooting of family life.
The cinematography is mysteriously disturbing and gorgeous – extreme close-ups, so abstract that often we are unable to make out the entire picture – which correlates with this young girl/woman’s un/awareness of the outside world. The story takes on a fantastical turn when the small family lugging their meager belongings on the road trying to make their way to their Omi’s (grandmother’s) house in Hamburg (500 miles to the North) are stopped by American soldiers who ask for their “papers” which they do not have. A young Jewish man Thomas (Kai Malina) – an escapee from Buchenwald who had noticed Lore earlier, materializes and says he is their brother/bruder showing the soldiers his own papers with a large Jewish Star emblazoned inside. We never get to know why Thomas decides to be this vulnerable family's "savior" except perhaps his attraction to the lovely Lore. This is the catalyst for our heroine’s journey from hatred and self-ingested propaganda against all Jews to a slow comprehension of human dignity, respect, and a growing realization of a nation and family’s horrific acts. The movie describes this excursion as an interior exploration as well as an external one - both being circuitous and fraught with violence, confusion and regret.
We can see Lore as a generational view of the German people’s denial of Hitler’s decimation and acts of extermination supplanted by a new generation slowly breaking with their heinous past. But this takes time, lots of time if it ever does succeed.