Review

'Lore' explores how the sins of the parents affect the children

CorrespondentMay 16, 2013 

"Lore" follows the harrowing journey of a fourteen-year-old German girl played by Saskia Rosendahl, left, who leads her four siblings across a war-torn Germany after her Nazi parents are imprisoned at the end of World War II. Rosendahl meets a mysterious young refugee, Thomas played by Kai Malina, right, who she must put her trust in.

MUSIC BOX FILMS

  • Lore

    B

    Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, Kai-Peter Malina

    Director: Cate Shortland

    Website: www.musicboxfilms.com/lore

    Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes

    Rating: This film is not rated, but contains some scenes of violence

May, 1945. As the Third Reich collapses, a high-ranking SS officer and his family flee from the Allied armies. When mom and dad are captured and sent to prison, five kids, led by teenaged Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), are left to fend for themselves. So they set off from Bavaria to Hamburg, where their grandmother lives.

Raised as good little Hitler Youth, these youngsters – one of them an infant – cannot possibly believe that the ‘Final Victory’ hasn’t been achieved, with the Nazis emerging victorious. But as they travel across the defeated, battle-scarred land, they soon come to realize that they have become just a small part of the sea of displaced persons the war has created.

Begging for food, hiding from American and Russian soldiers, fending off men who want to use them sexually, the group trudges onward. Then they meet up with Thomas (Kai Malina), a Jew who attaches himself to their party, and whose survival skills are greater than theirs.

This sets up an interesting conundrum. The kids have been taught that Jews are the scum of the earth, and Lore in particular wants nothing to do with Thomas. But as they travel onward, the younger children form a real attachment to him. And as they encounter other refugees and manage to see pictures posted by the Allies of what liberated death camps like Auschwitz and Buchenwald looked like, Lore starts to get a more nuanced feel for who her parents are and what they supported. By the end of the film, she has become a changed person.

There’s no doubt director Cate Shortland – an Australian, no less – has taken on an offbeat subject, although several recent documentaries have dealt with the legacy of Nazi war criminals and how it has affected their families. Yet even though “Lore” is a totally professional piece of work, beautifully shot and well acted, it is never as emotionally affecting as it could be. That’s because Shortland has handled the material in a very impressionistic manner – there isn’t a lot of dialogue, it is languidly paced, and scenes of the children trudging through forests and meadows are often intercut with shots of pristine nature and local animal life. It’s as if Shortland were consciously imitating Terrence Malick’s filmmaking style – without the incessant New Age-y voiceovers.

Despite this, “Lore” leaves you questioning what will happen to these kids. It’s not their fault they were raised the way they were, but the film leaves you wondering if, like Lore, they will be able to break from their past. And as I watched, I couldn’t help thinking about the infant daughter of deceased alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. What will she grow up to be? And what kind of world will she grow up in? If nothing else, “Lore” reminds us that children are not responsible for the sins of their parents.

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