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Friday, 15 March 2013 12:00

'Lore' tells a story of betrayal rarely breathed

'Lore' tells a story of betrayal rarely breathed
Written by Martha K. Baker
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Lore, the nickname for Hannelore, is the title character of this most arresting film about a family. The year is 1945, the season is spring; the family comprises Mutti, Vati, two sisters, Lore and Liesel; twin brothers, Jurgen and Gunther, and an infant son named Peter for the father.

The family, rent asunder by the end of World War II, had wealth and position because the father was in the higher ranks of the SS. He had filled his children's heads full of the lore of Nazism, but with the end of the war and the end of the life of their Fuhrer, Lore realizes slowly that their lives are over. Father leaves and Mother gives herself up to the Americans, telling her eldest child to get herself and her siblings to their grandmother's house in Hamburg.

What Mother does not mention is that the trains are not running. She does not tell Lore what to do when the money runs out and the jewelry buys nothing. She does not tell Lore what to do without papers. She does not tell her what to do when it is apparent that the beloved Fuhrer is not going to feed them, not going to nurse the baby or save their lives from enemy guns.

The children wander for miles among the American, French, British, and Russian parts of the now divided German. Along the way, they pick up a man who calls himself Thomas, a man with Jewish credentials in his wallet. He is able to exploit Baby Peter, wet and crying, as a way to get food for them all. But Lore has been taught that Jews are the enemy. She has been taught (brainwashed, if you will) that Americans are torturing German children. She sees pictures of thin and naked Jews piled up in boneyards, but she believes that these are manufactured images.

At 15, Lore is old enough to compute some of these mysteries, to say "Heil, Hitler" half-heartedly to a cowhand, her hand raised as if in choreography not politics. She is old enough to realize that her father may have had something to do with atrocities. The others are too young, even more innocent than she. And this is the story that Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland tells in the script she wrote with Robin Mukherjee, based on an Anglo-German novel by Rachel Seiffert. This is the story that Shortland tells with cameras raised on high to show dark green forests, with tiny sheep and bewildered people wandering through the landscape. Her cameras also come in very close to tweed sleeves, to strained faces and a gun blast in a suicide's face, and to black dye dripping off uniforms.

Saskia Rosendahl carries the part of Lore with elan and maturity, but Nele Trebs is just as good as her nearly silent sister. "Lore" is painful to watch, but revealing in its message.

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