Immediately following the death of Hitler, Germany fell into a rather desperate situation, with control and claim to land from Russia, France the UK and the USA. Lore takes place in this emotionally charged backdrop and is based on a core thread of Rachel Seiffert’s 2001 novel “The Dark Room”. Lore and her brothers and sisters, the children of an SS officer, journey through a rapidly progressing Germany, polarised by their embedded views and the gradual realisation of their emerging genocidal legacy - encapsulated by an early trigger point: Lore's mother, having burned evidence of their SS associations, advises her "You must remember who you are."
Writer and Director Cate Shortland harnesses the character of the novel with visual mastery that continuously pushes and pulls us from a the romance of childhood and emergence of teenage attraction, to the deadly miliue and the gamble of trust that Lore and her bothers and sisters take with each encounter on the journey. This is magnified when they meet Thomas, a Jewish boy that, for what seem initially selfish motives, assists their journey.
The tensions and implications of history would of course be too much to be explored factually or directly (with dialogue), so Shortland instead crafts a poetic, ambiguous tension around Lore, the main protagonist, that leaves us reflecting on her interpretations of the war, her family, and attitudes towards the persecuted Jews, until the very end.
Summarising an emotional piece like Lore is difficult. This is a work of technical excellence but with an overriding sense of doom. The choice to leave certain revelations until the end weighs heavily on the viewer and we left the screening needing a stiff drinking and some considerable cheering up. But of course, good feelings and painting the 'Hero's journey' are not Shortlands intention. She instead places us at a viewpoint, just above Lore's heart. Lore's confusion, contempt, disgust and rage are felt far more than observed; Lore is truly an experience worth watching and remembering, especially for an emerging generation for which WWII may be an increasingly distant and obtuse event.