Thursday 18 October 2012

London Film Festival: LORE review

Screened at this year's London Film Festival, this is director Cate Shortland's long awaited follow up to Somersault, Lore.
Set in the days after Hitler's death and the end of World War II, Lore sees the eponymous teenager take her younger siblings across treacherous ground as they aim for safety away from the downfall of what they thought was true about the war and the involvement of their father, a high ranking officer in Hitler's army.

When her mother and father give themselves up to the allied forces, Lore begins a trek with her younger siblings to find safety on the other side of the war ravaged countryside of Germany. There's an intense feeling that not only is danger around every corner, but sexual threat. With every new encounter the tension grows that something truly horrible is going to happen to this young family, comprised of innocents despite their father's misdeeds.

Hiding their true identities, along the road they meet Thomas, a mysterious tag-along recently freed from the concentration camps. He is looking for a purpose and sees the imminent danger that this family is in, so joins them as they navigate this new world without order.

Just as Shortland's previous film Somersault was an exploration of female sexuality, so is Lore. The lead character may display bouts of emotional immaturity, but she is on the verge of adulthood and shows not only an appreciation of Thomas's presence, but also a desire for him to become her lover. In a world of men who come with intense sexual threat (including her father who has a disturbingly lingering look at his daughter as her wet clothes cling to her), alone stands Thomas as an unlikely suitor. Slightly older than Lore and burdened with a wholly different experience during the war (one that could lead him to want vengeance against anyone associated with the Nazi's), he takes on the surrogate father role opposite Lore's mother.

The debut of lead actress Saskia Rosendahl, she's in almost every scene of the entire film. Lore rivals Winter's Bone for sheer abject misery, and although it may not have a chainsaw in the water moment of utter shock, Saskia Rosendahl's Lore having to see the destruction her mother and father's beliefs have caused is shown through a wonderfully restrained performance that shows her loss of innocence.

Lore is a powerful and atmospheric film anchored by some outstanding performances from its young cast, and shot beautifully by Shortland and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (who also shot Animal Kingdom and Snowtown). This is a grim and gripping original take on the Second World War, and proof that having to wait eight years for Shortland's follow up to Somersault was worth the wait.


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