Sunday, 2 August 2015

Lore (4½ Stars)

This film is a curiosity. It's an Australian film, made by an Australian director, but filmed in the German language in Germany. The director, Cate Shortland, says that for her the biggest problem making the film was the language barrier. That's an understatement. How is it at all possible for a director to make a film in a language she doesn't understand? It seems like a total impossibility to me.

The film is about the children of a high-ranking Nazi officer in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. The family lives in the Black Forest, an area that remained unscathed during the war. The father is lost in the war, and the mother abandons her children because she fears being arrested by the Americans. 15-year-old Lore, the oldest child in the family, has to take her sister and three brothers to their grandmother's house in Husum, 900 Km (560 miles) to the north. This is complicated by the fact that the trains no longer run, and Germany has been divided into four occupation zones.

The film is based on a novel by the English author Rachel Seiffert. After reading it Cate Shortland decided she wanted to film it. At first she considered making the film in English, but then decided that it would be better to make it in German. Cate has a connection to Germany, because her husband's grandparents were German Jews who emigrated to Australia in 1937.

I don't think a German could have made this film. It portrays a different Germany to the communal guilt paradigm that all German intellectuals follow. Lore knows nothing about the concentration camps. When people in her village are shown photos by the Americans she agrees with everyone else that it's American propaganda, fake photos using actors. Lore is helped in her travels by a young Jew who has been freed from a concentration camp, but she refuses to let him touch her because he's a dirty Jew. Even at the end of the film we see no more than hints that her attitude might have changed.

Saskia Rosendahl puts on an amazing performance in the title role, all the more remarkable considering it was her first film. She almost wasn't chosen because Cate thought she was too beautiful for the role. I don't think her looks were a problem in the film. Being poorly dressed and unwashed for most of the film kept her looking plain.

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