Leaving your childhood dream-world for the realities of adolescence is hard enough without said dream-world being Nazi indoctrination. As if that wasn’t enough, Lore’s nightmarish Bildungsroman also includes her leading her younger siblings (a sister, twin boys and a baby brother) all the way through the Black Forest to Hamburg, across a marsh and into the safety of her grandmother’s house. The reason for this is the Allied victory, which causes her parents, an SS Officer and his Aryan wife, to flee and be arrested respectively. The film follows the five’s tramp through the flickering, floating embers of Fuhrer photographs and the Final Solution, through the folklore-drenched forest, and across the newly-imposed borders of French, American, British and Russian ‘zones’.
Shortland has a sensual and sensitive visual style. The spotless Nazi family are thrown into a dirty, bloody environment full of flesh and almost empty of food, but which is poetically and operatically pictured; nature’s purity shows up the facade of Nazi purity. Max Richter’s score is delicate without jarring against the seemingly relentless, grim brutality of the subject matter. Newcomer Saskia Rosendahl portrays Lore with intensity and skill, giving an electrifying performance that bristles with confused passion and marks her out as ‘one to watch’.
At its heart, this is a story of upheaval, in a society and in a teenage girl, and of a dilemma of absolutes. In her adept manipulation of light and shade, beauty and brutality, life and death, Shortland successfully drags her audience, like Lore drags her siblings, along a singular journey. Along the way she creates an overwhelmingly charged, nausea-inducing yet wonderful piece of cinema.