Thursday, February 28, 2013

Film Review: Cate Shortland's Lore

Perhaps there is something about the nation's semi-isolation from the rest of the world.  Maybe it is the stigma of once being a penal colony, and thus outside of the mainstream world.  Maybe it has something to do with an upside down hemisphere, where Winter is Summer, and Summer, Winter, and the toilets flush counter-clockwise.  Okay, maybe not, but there is no doubt that the cinema of Australia has an, for lack of a better term, otherworldliness to it.  Sure, you have your occasional Crocodile Dundees and Yahoo Seriouses, but when one takes a look at the more artistic side of the cinema of Oz, films such as Peter Weir's classic Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Nicholas Roeg's Walkabout (yeah, I know, an English filmmaker, but filmed in, and about Australia), or more modern filmmakers like Ray Lawrence and New Zealander ex-pat Jane Campion, one sees a cinema that is seemingly not of this world.  One also sees this in Cate Shortland's 2004 directorial debut, Somersault, and one surely sees it again, in her long-awaited follow-up, Lore.

Then again, Lore is of a different world.  Moving from the often sad, but ultimately hopeful contemporary New South Wales of Somersault to the harrowing devastation that was the German countryside during the days following the death of Adolph Hitler, Lore tells the story of a young girl and her four siblings, making their way to their grandmother's house, after their parents are arrested for being proud members of the Nazi party.  Though taking place in the Germany of May 1945, Lore is still very much an Australian film by its otherworldly nature, but then this nature fits perfectly with the lost, unraveling world that is said Germany of May 1945.  We watch as the blonde and blue-eyed Lore, and her equally Arian siblings, sister Liesel, twin brothers, and baby brother in tow, team up with a Jewish teen named Thomas, and trek some 500+ miles, to escape the allied forces that have taken over their country at the end of the war, and we watch as their world - the only world they know - collapses around them, thus becoming the aforementioned feeling of being in or on a whole other world, an alien world.

And it also acts as another world for this critic as well.  Where most movies based on or around a subject such as this, act as either condemnations of the Holocaust or all-out war films. full of death, destruction and the harrowing sights and sounds of the time, Lore plays at a quiet, almost beautiful in its style, sullen look at five children, who through no fault of their own, are suddenly enemies - prisoners even - in their own country.  This is not the story of cold-blooded Nazi's or heroic American or Russian soldiers.  It is not a film of espionage or intrigue - no action-filled scenes of war.  No, this is the story of children lost in a world they no longer know or understand, and the way Shortland portrays that - with the help of star Saskia Rosendahl, who will annihilate you with her tragic portrayal - creates a whole other world.  A world where suddenly, Lore and her siblings are completely lost.  Their Fuhrer is dead and gone, the so-called enemy - and by her viewpoint, the Americans, Russians and British are invaders - are all over.  Shortland's fractured narrative, and visual wariness, bring this strange tale to an almost emotionally and spiritually claustrophobic level.  Another world indeed.

2 comments:

Michael Scott said...

You think it's otherworldly on screen, you should try living here! It's like an Instagram fantasyland, just with venomous snakes.

Tom Gooderson-A'Court said...

Great review. I agree with what you say about the children being in the situation through no fault of their own. That was one of the saddest aspects. To be hated for who they are raises parallels with the Nazi's view of Jews too. I really enjoyed the film.