Beautifully-shot, World War II-set drama explores character raised within Nazi ideology
Nine years after her sensitive debut Somersault, about a teenage runaway in Australia, director Cate Shortland brings us her second feature Lore, adapted from a short story by Rachel Seiffert. Shortland’s first film made a star of Abbie Cornish (who went on to work with Jane Campion in Bright Star) and similarly she appears to have found another promising performer in Saskia Rosendhal. The young German actress plays the titular character in this story set at the end of World War II as the Nazi regime topples and Germany is invaded by foreign forces. Lore is the teenage daughter of a Nazi official and the film begins with the family leaving their home to head to a secluded farmhouse in the countryside. After her father disappears and her mother is taken away she embarks on a journey with her siblings to Hamburg where their grandmother lives. On the way they meet a young man, Thomas, whose intentions towards them appear unclear.
What’s intriguing here is the idea of a young woman, brought up within, and completely convinced by Nazi ideology, trying to exist as that world comes crumbling down. How does someone untangle themselves from such a thick web of lies and propaganda? Shortland creates a palpable sense of atmosphere and coupled with fluid camerawork and a verdant forest backdrop Lore looks and feels a world apart from other WWII-set dramas.
What’s less effective is the way the relationship between Lore and Thomas is explored: their interactions are a mix of sexual attraction, repulsion and manipulation, shrouded in confusion and things unsaid. But some of their more dramatic actions aren’t quite as enlightening as they are intended to be and come across less as believable character responses and more as extreme and slightly contrived plot developments.
There’s still lots to admire here though, not least Shortland’s fresh approach to a story set in an era that has been explored so often before in films.
Limited release from Fri 22 Feb.