Saturday, 13 October 2012

LFF: Lore Review

Director/Writer: Cate Shortland

Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, Andre Fird, Mika Seidel, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner

Plot: After their father and mother are taken to prison for involvement in the Nazi regime, Lore (Rosendahl) and her brothers and sister venture to Hamberg on foot to find sanctuary at their aunt’s house. Along their journey a mysterious young man (Malina) follows behind, eventually trying to join their group for indefinite reasons.

It is not always a sin to exploit the rich history of Germany in film – when the outcome is good more people can become educated and opinionated about the most pivotal area of Germanic history, World War II. Even some of the bravest directors opt out of making their own Holocaust film (Kubrick famously gave up after months of nightmare-inducing research) and so when one director tactfully shines a light on that particular period, it is usually noteworthy. For Cate Shortland’s Lore the result is quite astounding, especially as Shortland is an Australian director whose previous experience has only included three films, two television programmes and three shorts. The level of detail in Lore – artistically – is up to par with legendary European directors such as Michael Haneke and Andrey Tarkovsky, doubtlessly bound to do wonders for Shortland’s career. Tarkovsky is an obvious inspiration for Lore and sweeping shots of fields, matched with the finer close-ups of materials and movement are agreeably reminiscent of 1975’s Mirror.

Visually, Lore is a feast of textures, incredibly atmospheric and involving. Its major fault is the various cracks in the narrative’s momentum that can often leave shots lingering too long (however dazzling they may be). As much as performance is intrinsic to the success and fascination of this film, shots are meticulously crafted to reflect the closeness of the brothers and sisters, aside the substantial ruin of a post-war Germany – resulting in wonderful photographic close-ups and panoramic wide-shots.

It is, at points, a slow film that requires a lot of attention – the pictorial cinematography acting partly as a photographic companion to the heavy, novelistic journey of Lore and her siblings. Some sequences are focused upon for too long but by and large it is a compelling story. Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina give awards-worthy performances to maintain the thrills and drama throughout (through no fault of their own their allure is jeopardised by slow or ambiguous moments in the film’s screenplay). Malina is an enigmatic but striking screen presence with a piercing glance that emotes his diffident character more than words ever could. His supposed Jewish heritage is often ignored as to not become a cheap dramatic device, but on the occasion when it is brought under scrutiny the shock of the country’s feigned defensive prejudice (or, more specifically, Lore’s) stresses the fragility of the country’s mind to great effect. What’s more, the ambivalent relationship he shares with Lore is intriguing aspect to Lore’s already-complex life. Rosendahl as the eponymous character is the strongest aspect of the whole film; she can do no wrong for the film and carries it with sensational grace and skill. Big things will emerge for each child star in this film and with Rosendahl even able to speak English and having a genuine, wholesome beauty, she will triumph in a number of ways thanks to her starring role.

Such a confident, intelligent and mature piece of cinema; it is a pleasant surprise to learn of its elementary genus. In for the Official Competition at the London Film Festival it may come out on top for its sophisticated exploration of maturity, loss, life and family – rivalled perhaps by Haneke’s Amour looking at similar themes. No matter how it fares for the 56th LFF, Lore will be a new classic from Germany; one to study and share with film, literature and history fanatics.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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