Australian director Cate Shortland's film, a World War II drama, has been picked up by Music Box Films for distribution in the U.S.
SYDNEY -- Australian director Cate Shortland has been in no hurry to follow up her award-winning 2004 feature debut Somersault and she takes her time, too, with the German-language Lore, unspooling a lyrical, deeply affecting study into a rarely seen legacy of the Holocaust.
In Somersault, Shortland’s dreamy stylings created a modest film that lingered. Lore shares that film’s ethereal palette and an arty fixation on the minutiae of nature, but the moral landmines are weightier. Told through the eyes of a teenage girl, this superbly shot German-British-Australian co-production rather controversially offers up as victims, not those subjected to barbarous anti-Semitic crimes, but the bewildered German civilians struggling in the wake of WWII to comprehend what just happened.
Screening in competition at the Sydney Film Festival, the immersive drama is a fitting reward for those who’ve waited eight years to see what Shortland would do next. Lore has been picked up by Music Box Films for distribution in the U.S. and its spellbinding visuals and prickly subject, coupled with a preternaturally mature performance by newcomer Saskia Rosendahl in the title role, should lure discerning arthouse audiences.
Adapted by Shortland and Robin Mukherjee from Rachel Seiffert’s sparsely written novel The Dark Room, the tale picks up immediately following the demise of the Reich and the Allied occupation of Germany in the spring of 1945. Lore (Rosendahl) watches as her S.S. Nazi father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) is arrested and her Hitler-revering mother (The White Ribbon’s Ursina Lardi) surrenders, instructing her eldest daughter to take the children to their grandmother in Hamburg.
It’s a 500-mile trek and, with young sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twin boys Jurgen (Mika Seidel) and Gunther (Andre Frid) and babe-in-arms Peter in tow, Lore sets off on a perilous journey across a vanquished nation, confronting death, deprivation and, inconveniently enough, the tumult of youthful desire. A deep prejudice has been instilled by loving parents and Lore’s doubts and fears about their allegiances play out in her ambivalent relationship with the watchful young Jewish refugee (Kai Malina) she and her siblings connect with along the road.
It’s a strange sort of coming-of-age, undertaken during one of history’s darkest periods by a girl with a dawning understanding of events who’s still too young to be guilty.
Shortland unearthed a new talent in Abbie Cornish with Somersault and this new film should be a career-launcher for Rosendahl, whose captivating features often provide a shimmering counterpoint to the grimness of her surrounds.
Shot entirely in Europe, with richly sensual lensing by the talented Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom, Snowtown), this measured, subtly complex film keeps a respectful distance from well-documented WWII atrocities to allow for an ambiguous reading of evil.
Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Ursina Lardi, Nele Trebs
Production company: Edge City Films, Porchlight Films, Rohfilm
Director: Cate Shortland
Screenwriters: Robin Mukherjee and Cate Shortland, based on a story by Rachel Seiffert
Producers: Karsten Stoter, Liz Watts, Paul Welsh, Benny Dreschel
Director of photography: Adam Arkapaw
Production designer: Silke Fischer
Costume designer: Stefanie Bieker
Music: Max Richter
Editor: Veronika Jenet
Sales: Memento Films
No rating, 109 minutes