Lore is a film from Australian director Cate Shortland . It’s a coming of age story revolving around the daughter of an S.S. officer as Germany crumbles at the end of the war.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHDwaOvvWL8]

Amidst the chaos her family escapes to the Black Forest, where her parents are apprehended, never to return again. From there the film is a dangerous cross-country journey to safety. Lore is the oldest of five children and she has to stay strong for all of them, taking care of them in the perilous conditions. Along the way the lengths that she’s willing to go to are tested.

Saskia Rosendahl plays the title role and centers the entire film. She gives a truly impressive, strong female performance (a prevailing theme at RIFF this year). She has to burden all the responsibility, and the performance sells you on the toll the voyage takes on her. Across the board the acting is very good, especially from the actors playing the kids. However, those portraying the few Allies that they interact with feel somewhat flat.

Melancholic and raw are perfect words to describe the film. It’s bleak and there’s an all-encompassing sense of hopelessness. The film is photographed in a handheld style, containing only a handful of steady shots. There’s heavy use of close-ups and extreme close-ups; it feels like art house home cinematography, giving of a strong sense of intimacy with the subject. The camera is constantly moving with the focus often in flux.  It’s not to the level of shaky cam, but some might find it detrimental to the film.

It also never shies away from violence and is quite fixated with the results of it. Lore frequently becomes a soul crushing experience full of tension as you’re never sure if the kids will actually make it.

Even though the point of view is with the daughter of an S.S. officer, the film doesn’t paint the Nazis with any sort of positivity. Instead it shows just how effective the propaganda of the time was in a manner nothing short of terrifying. That’s not to say that the Allies are portrayed as outright heroes either. The only thing that’s completely clear is that the conditions in Germany were categorically horrendous. The narrative may take place on a micro scale but it still makes you keenly aware of all the terrible atrocities committed in World War II.

The film brings up all sorts of moral and thematic questions, both with its main character’s lineage and the people the children encounter along the way. Chief among them is a Jewish boy who helps them. His introduction creates interpersonal tension, as Lore has been conditioned to hate Jewish people. The other side to that story is obvious. All this culminates in a very bittersweet ending.

Final Verdict: Lore is a beautifully shot film, presenting you with a protagonist who raises all sorts of moral quandaries. It draws you into its compelling tale and doesn’t release you until the credits roll.

Keep up with our RIFF coverage here.
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