The natural world is humming and thrumming, the rivers coursing, the green grass rustling, the bright sun arcing over woods and fields. But the five siblings dragging themselves across those woods and fields in Cate Shortland’s fierce and powerful “Lore” have been buffeted by forces of man, not nature: namely, war.
The Third Reich has fallen, and in Germany, a Nazi officer and his wife take their children into hiding, and then abandon them as Allied trucks and tanks roll in. Led by Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), a strong-minded teenager, the group — twin boys, a younger sister, an infant — must trek clear across their ruined country to their grandmother’s house.
Seeking shelter in abandoned farms, begging for food, literally stumbling into bloody corpses — this is not how Lore and the Dressler kinder were raised. And when a young man comes along and helps them, Lore doesn’t know what to do: Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina) is a Jew. There are serial numbers tattooed on his arm. Her parents spoke of this race of people with contempt; they are embarrassments, genetically weak, not to be trusted. And here she is, here they are, their fate in a Jew’s hands.
Shortland, an Australian filmmaker, contrasts the beauty of the land and the horrors committed by its human inhabitants. “Lore” is a dark coming-of-age saga — about the trauma of war, about legacy, about collective guilt. As hunger, weariness and despair sink in, Lore finds herself deeply conflicted about Thomas. He is her hero, her shame.
By the end of their arduous journey, Lore and her siblings are changed. But it’s the kind of change that will take years, perhaps generations, to understand, to heal.