This is a coming-of-age film, a deconstructed fairy-tale and a crash land to reality. It could have been horribly melodramatic, put-upon, slickly ineffectual. It deals with touchy subject matter to begin with by focusing on the suffering of German kids at the end of WWII. These kids have been brought up on the same ideology as their Nazi parents who taken to prison. Lore and her four siblings are left to fend for themselves, to trek through the Bavarian forests to Hamburg with nothing but their mother’s jewelery to hock. It’s tough for film to make a WWII story without it feeling somehow exploitative and disrespectfully sentimental and manipulative. But Lore tows the line surprisingly successfully; it’s only blatant weakness is that the often stunning cinematography by Adam Arkapaw (who also photographed Top of the Lake) can at times veer towards sensualist preciousness. But the photography is essential and evocative in ways that make up for this quality.
Told entirely and loyally from Lore’s point-of-view, the film stays committed to depicting her isolation and deeply naive existence. The camera keeps a shallow focus on faces, hands, and feet, straying to glimpse the falsely inviting forests and disturbing decaying environment. As information comes out about der Fuhrer’s actions, the people around her stay in fierce denial. But she is silent as she lets the heaviness sink in as she continues her difficult journey.
Lore doesn’t feel affected; it feels disturbingly real and lyrically honest. It conveys its feeling through faces and filmic construct, shying away from feeling plotted. The entire film rests on Saskia Rosendahl, who is a revelation. It’s one of the best performances by a young woman I’ve seen in years. Her face tells a self-sustaining narrative. She is steadfast and fierce but we can see that inside, her mind is being pulled in every which direction from devastation, denial, realization, sexuality, exhaustion and the shattering of innocence that comes with discovering the indescribably horrific consequences of the ideals she was brought up to believe in.