MRR Review: "Lore"

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A drama film set in southwestern Germany during the dying days of World War II, the title character (played by Saskia Rosendahl) and her four siblings must travel 900 km to their grandmother's Husum Bay home after their Nazi parents are arrested by Allied Forces. Directed by Cate Shortland, the film is based on Rachel Seiffert's novel "The Dark Room".
3.5

MRR Review: "Lore"

-- Rating: Unrated
Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2013
Directed by: Cate Shortland
Genre: Drama/Thriller/War

Many moviegoers are all too familiar with the heroic efforts of the Allies during World War II. "Lore" turns this convention on its ear, showing the aftermath of the Allied push into Germany at the end of WWII through the eyes of an impressionable young teen girl. The story teeters between being a war movie and a thriller. It shows considerable effort on the part of the director to film it as a cinematic art piece as well. The overall result is a film likely to end up on the shelves of war movie and dramatic stories alike, even if it doesn't define either of these genres.

"Lore" is the story of a young girl named Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) and her life after her SS father returns to the frontline and her mother is arrested by Allied forces. Lore takes her siblings, including younger sister Liesel (Nele Trebs) and twins Gunther (Andre Frid) and Jurgen (Mika Siedel), into the Black Forest of Germany on their way to Hamburg. The 500-mile trek provides much time for young Lore to discover that a world exists outside of her home and witness the horrors of war firsthand. There, they discover a young man named Thomas (Kai Malina), who is a survivor of the German Jewish purge. His relationship with the refugees, his struggle to overcome Lore's preconceptions formed by her parents, and his time in the Hitler Youth corps bring most of the dramatic elements to the story.

The acting in "Lore" is not likely to win many awards. Rosendahl manages to create an interesting and deep character through her excellent delivery, but the other young actors and actresses in the piece tend to fall flat at times. Notably, Liesel and the twins come off as caricatures more often than not. This is in part due to the relatively small roles the other children have in the overall story, serving as little more than a foil to demonstrate the nature of the main character. The weakness here may be a failing of the script or direction as easily as acting, as it is hard to tell when characters are relocated to such minor roles in such a small cast. Malina does an excellent job of bringing Malina to life, creating a real tension between himself and Rosendahl that dominates the film.

The cinematography and effects employed in "Lore" are one of the movie's strongest points. Camera angles switch seamlessly between art-style filming and war-movie-inspired action sequences. The beauty of the German countryside and terror of war are brought into stark contrast on many occasions. Looming Allied tanks and presumably dangerous soldiers walk the streets and may cause moviegoers to cringe alongside the characters on-screen. The lighting is nearly perfect throughout, capturing a sense of nuance more commonly found in art films than war movies.

The script struggles at times to define whether the movie is supposed to be focused on the drama between the refugees and Thomas or the threat of the Allied forces. It balances these aspects fairly well for the first half of the film, but seems to lose focus as the movie nears its climax. This is possibly due to the combination of directorial and scriptwriting roles taken on by Cate Shortland. The dialogue often feels campy and cliché, but the passion that the two main characters employ with their delivery of the dialogue regularly overcomes this shortcoming. The action and story still come through in a beautiful and memorable form, even when the focus lags.

The direction of the piece is likewise hit and miss. Shortland may have had too much going on to focus on both the dialogue and direction, even though her cinematographic choices were solid and often breathtaking. A sharp, focused plot at the beginning starts to unravel by the middle of the films, which meanders and wanders on its path to the close. The movie begins to take on the feel of a French dramatic art-house film, departing sharply from its initial roots as a wartime thriller. This dichotomy is apparent in the final act, which attempts to bring the disparate genres back together and succeeds. This is a testament to the skill of the writer and director, as audiences who may have felt disengaged are brought back into the fold by the end.

"Lore" makes a wonderful choice for both war movie buffs and those who enjoy dramatic thrillers alike. The slow pacing and occasionally weak dialogue do not detract too much from the overall glory and splendor of the piece. The plot may have originated in a novel with far deeper elements, but the movie is likely to find itself a home with those looking for an entertaining night with loved ones.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5