Disappointing... yet brilliant

Random and not-so-random thoughts about movies

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Lore

Director Cate Shortland Stars Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, André Frid Germany/Australia 2011 Language German (with English subtitles) 1hr 48 mins Colour

Growing up is tough when the Thousand Year Reich turns out to have been a big con

What kind of kind of film is Lore? It’s a teenage girl-struggles-to-come-to-grips-with-her-world indie movie, told in saturated colours, lots of close-ups, bursts of sound, taking time to follow sparks leaping from a fire or a snail crawling along a branch, all reflecting the intensity of the lead character’s feelings and largely set in deeply lush forests in spring and early summer whose burgeoning life echoes (but not in a clanging way) the girl’s budding sexuality. Roughly speaking, that puts it in a genre that takes in Sofia Coppola’s films, the terrific Swedish film Fucking Amal (aka Show Me Love), My Summer Of Love and director Cate Shortland’s excellent debut, Somersault.

It also belongs to the overlapping collection of films about young women who find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances, which includes Wendy And Lucy, festival circuit fave Martha Marcy May Marlene, Lilya-4-Ever and the brilliant Winter’s Bone, which Lore resembles at some of its best points.

Lastly, it’s a survivors’ road movie, one of those films about a group of people heading through a wrecked landscape looking for safety and civilization. Many of those are post-apocalyptic, and that’s how this film often feels, although it’s set in May 1945, and the disaster that befalls Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) and her family is the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. Because these aren’t victims of the Nazis, they are Nazis (granted, we can probably let the baby off the hook) – blonde, blue-eyed true believers. With their parents swept up by the Americans, teenage Lore is left in charge of her younger sister, twin brothers and the baby, trying to guide them across a country not only devastated by war but arbitrarily divided into four zones by the occupying powers, making the most straightforward routes from one place to another impossible. Along the way, they keep bumping into concentration camp survivor Thomas, and eventually have to accept this resourceful young man’s help.

Their journey (along with a lot of other things) is a metaphor for German’s eventual de-Nazification process, but far from a crude, unnuanced one. It’s probably best embodied in the younger sister, Liesel (Nele Trebs), who at the start seems a more perfect product of the system than Lore  but turns out to be repeatedly adaptable. Saski Rosendahl is good, too, as Lore, not especially likable, nor that heroic, just dealing as best she can (and sometimes failing) with the difficult circumstances thrown at her.

There are moments that can seem fairly familiar – the begging, bargaining, stealing; the first encounter with a dead body – and it isn’t entirely free of clichés. But it is a film that gives us characters with vile worldviews that aren’t their faults, and doesn’t crudely manipulate our attitude towards them. Nor for a minute does it feel worthy or like it is try to teach us a lesson. It’s a film that is often uncomfortable to watch but never feels like it is revelling in the grimness. But again, the setting, the history, is only ever part of what makes a film, and whatever this movie is trying to say is mostly conveyed by colour, by noise, by where the camera lingers, and it does all of that extremely well.

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