Music Box Films
Director: Cate Shortland
Screenwriters: Cate Shortland, Robin Mukherjee from Rachel Seiffert’s novel “The Dark Room”
Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 11/14/12
Opens: December 28, 2012 limited. February 8, 2013 wide.
Perhaps this question is naïve: how did the Germans like being defeated in World War II? We know how Frau Magda Goebbels felt. As she wrote to one of her sons, then in a POW camp in North Africa, ”Our glorious idea is ruined and with it everything beautiful and marvelous that I have known in my life. The world that comes after theFührer and national socialism is not any longer worth living, and therefore I take the children with me.” She did not take the children to Disneyland. With the help of her husband, Joseph Goebbels, she drugged her six little ones with morphine and broke a cyanide capsule in the mouth of each and then committed suicide.
So…life without Der Führer sucks, to put the German feeling into modern English. Here is a movie that shows one teenager’s mood after April 1945. “Lore” was co-written and directed by Cate Shortland, whose 2004 film “Somersault” deals with a 15-year-old girl sorting out her feelings about sexuality and learning the difference between sex and love. In this new film, Australia’s Oscar entry for movies that opened in 2012, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) is a 14-year-old girl whose father and mother are in the SS and must leave home because the American occupation forces are rounding up Germans and putting them into temporary camps. Lore must fend without them and is put in charge of her four siblings, with the task of joining their grandmother in Hamburg 900 km away. As they trudge through the landscape they encounter scenes of poverty, deprivation, and death, thereby seeing the results of the work done by people like their parents. Nonetheless, Lore has been brainwashed by Nazi ideology and appears sold when an adult tells them that pictures of concentration camp victims are fake allied propaganda, the starving persons in the pictures nothing but paid actors.
The key scenes do not involve Lore’s relationship with her parents, or her grandmother, or the neighbors from whom she begs food, but those encompassing Lore’s meeting with Thomas (Kai Malina), whose arm is tattooed and whose I.D. papers signal Lore that he is a Jew. She has been taught that Jews are the enemies of Germany, that they are parasites, that they are responsible even for Germany’s defeat in World War I. Though she is repelled by Thomas strictly because of his religious heritage, she sees him as a man who is generous, one who protects her and her siblings from possible harm by the Americans who may be guilty of raping some of the women in their zone of occupation.
Like Abbie Cornish’s character Heidi in the director’s “Somersault,” Lore is awakened by sexual feelings, engaging in an approach-avoidance conflict with Thomas, even grasping his arm and placing it between her legs. Despite the tensions faced by the people during their most vulnerable time, the mood of the entire film is a patient, to say the least, even lugubrious. The snail-like pace is all the more effective in exploring the talent of Saskia Rosendahl in the title role, a young woman who, if she were American, would be dubbed with the exciting plaudit “a star is born.” If simply to watch her perform in her freshman make the film worthwhile, its plodding pace would put the movie out of bounds for any but an upscale audience. “Lore” is one of the few films to deal with the fate of the German people just days after Hitler’s suicide, one filmed by Adam Arkapaw with technical virtuosity.
Unrated. 109 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, NY Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B