12:35 PM EST, February 15, 2013
"Lore," from Australian director Cate Shortland, proceeds like a long-ago fairy tale, dark-hued, grounded in real-life 20th-century horrors.
Throwing its narrative lot in with five German children, young daughters and sons of an SS officer, and his wife cut adrift after World War II, the story fixes on 14-year-old Lore, who learns the truth and the consequences of her parents' lives. The process, under duress and the threat of starvation, is gradual, not sudden. Lore is forced to become matriarch of the family on the run. The children attempt to reach safe haven or something like it at their grandmother's cottage, outside Hamburg, a long way from the Bavarian universe they know and love.
The landscape these children travel is a strange one. The Allied forces are on the prowl; the old Nazi order is suddenly, violently gone. When a refugee (Kai Malina) bearing Jewish identity papers crosses Lore's path, the girl's tangled emotions bring out the best in young actress Saskia Rosendahl. As Lore she's a terrific performer, tough and honest to the last.
She is, in fact, a little better than the movie, which is more about efficiency and momentum than serious moral discomfort. Based on the novella "The Dark Room," the script handles some reversals and developments in ways that feel easy and prediagramed.
On the other hand "Lore" is a tense, often difficult experience, as any reasonably truthful Holocaust-themed narrative feature must be. (Unless you count "Life Is Beautiful," which was difficult to watch in other ways.) Director Shortland and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw keep the camera close to the children, and to all they witness. Rosendahl remains at the center throughout. At its best "Lore" chronicles how an indoctrinated child of Hitler's willing executioners might save herself during wartime, and its equally threatening aftermath.
'Lore' -- 3 stars
No MPAA rating
Running time: 1:48
Opens: Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema and Renaissance Place, Highland Park.
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