In April 1945, the Third Reich was on the brink of collapse. What took place during those first days after surrender, what the German people experienced, involves a point of view rarely considered. The implicit question is: Should any audience care about the impact this war had, one that took millions of lives, on those who, swept up in Hitler's madness, were its perpetrators?
In "Lore," Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland takes point of view and significantly alters it, asking the audience to see the aftermath of the Third Reich through the eyes of five children, most especially Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), 14 years old and a member of the Hitler Youth.
As the allies close in, her father, an SS officer (Hans Jochen Wagner), packs up his family — Lore's three younger brothers (one an infant) and sister — and takes them to an old farmhouse deep in the Black Forest. He quickly leaves, and within days Lore's mother leaves as well. Her parents, clearly, were committed supporters of Hitler and the Reich. Lore is told by her mother, with a detachment that is chilling, that she must take the children to their grandmother's farm just outside of Hamburg. This means a walkabout of many miles across Germany.
German with subtitles
And so begins Lore's odyssey, with her siblings, confronting a country that is devastated, its people at a loss to explain what happened.
And not only is this remarkable film viewed from the perspective of a defeated people, it is about this young girl, raised in the embrace of a militarized, anti-Semitic family, and still convinced that the fatherland and der Fuhrer were, collectively, the one true thing.
Gradually, she begins to contemplate that her reality, now juxtaposed against a landscape filled with the human detritus of war, is crumbling with every step she and her siblings take toward Hamburg.
"Lore" is, in a subtle and yet powerful way, allegorical. What Shortland has done by using children is to transcend any feelings about those who wrought such evil and are deserving of its aftermath, asking the audience to consider instead these five children and their fundamental humanity. To include Lore most of all, for it is she who wages an internal struggle about what she believes and what she is witnessing.
In one small town, to be given bread for the children, Lore stands in line, and is required to look at countless photographs taken in the death camps — stark images of desiccated people, bodies stacked like cords of wood. Against her will, she begins to acknowledge that this did take place and it was done in the name of the German people. For many, as she discovers, denial is the only refuge as it is, at least initially, for her.
"Lore" is haunting. Shortland uses intimate and tight shots to show the pain and hardship, not only of the long journey, but of the gradual understanding, at first unthinkable, that all they had been told by their parents was either wrong or a lie.
A film hasn't come along in some time that suffers from an identity crisis such as that displayed in the Tina Fey/Paul Rudd vehicle, "Admission." It's a mess. Is it a romantic comedy? Not really. A drama with very slight comic overtones? Well … Is it a film exploring the unsatisfying relationship between mother (the wonderful Lily Tomlin) and spiky daughter, Portia (Fey), a Princeton admissions officer? In part. Or is "Admission" about the many layers of unresolved guilt Portia carries because she gave up a child for adoption shortly after graduating from Dartmouth? In part.
On the other hand, perhaps it's about the loss she feels when her live-in boyfriend and Princeton professor, Mark (Michael Sheen), bails on her because he's gotten a resident Virginia Woolf scholar pregnant. Or not, since his departure is a running gag throughout the film.
But wait. What the film is really about is that Portia is convinced by alternative high school director, John (Rudd), that Portia's baby is now a student at his school and wishes to go to Princeton. His only qualification, however, is that he's an "autodidact"; he's never taken an AP class.
There's more: Portia is competing with her office rival, Corinne (Gloria Reuben), for the soon-to-be-available position of dean of admissions.
Or perhaps the film is a well-disguised satire about the entire college admissions process and what students and parents must do to gain admission to the school of their choice. Or perhaps that's the movie "Admission" could've been but isn't.