Some eight years after Somersault, Lore marks the return of Australian director Cate Shortland. Anyone worried that Shortland's abilities may have been dulled by the intervening years between features can rest easy. Her second feature is a complicated journey through a physical/psychological terrain scorched by the malignancy of the Third Reich. The film plays out like a dark dream, weighted down by a tragedy far too complex for its young characters to fully fathom. Essentially, Shortland has succeeded in fashioning a tale that supports (albeit in a conflicted sense) the notion that the children of the Nazi era were also victims of their country's madness.
Coming directly after the death of Hitler, teenaged Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) and her four siblings are left alone after their parents are imprisoned for war crimes. The kids are forced to flee to safety as the allied forces carve up Germany into territories. While on the long voyage to their grandmother's house, the meet up with Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a Jewish teenager who serves as both a protector and a painful reminder of the evil that motivates the journey. The six youngsters move through the war ravaged landscape in the only way they know how, clinging onto each other as they unsteadily make their advances.
With its trip to Grandma's house motif, Lore could easily have upped the dark fairy tale aspects that, while present, never overtake a matching sense of realism. What results is a magical realism (note: not exactly magic realism, but moving towards it at times) that treats images of death and decay in equal esteem as visions of light streaming through foliage. Sure, there's a bit of Red Riding Hood in there, but there's also a more than healthy nod to Nicholas Roeg's Walkabout, too.
Lore will screen at the 36th Portland International Film Festival at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on Sunday, Feb. 10th at 7:30pm and at Regal Lloyd Center 10 on Monday, Feb. 11th at 5:45pm. More info available here.