[LORE screens Friday May 24th at 7:25 pm and Saturday May 25th at 9:40 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]
Review by Charles
if I'm not hired, what readers will miss out on are appreciations of
untypical battleground fare like LORE, a German/Australian/UK WWII
tragedy. It is heavy going, probably one of the feelbad movies of 2012.
But it showcases an aspect of war that many moviemakers blithely gloss
over: the losers.
Yes, except for Hollywood's now-politically
incorrect romanticizing of the Confederate south rising again proudly in
such oldie epics as BIRTH OF A NATION, GONE WITH THE WIND and SO RED
THE ROSE, mainstream moviemakers don't find much terribly sexy or
action-packed about dwelling on the travails of any defeated enemy.
Still, when something does get made that confronts that melancholy theme -
from OPEN CITY to DOWNFALL - it's almost of necessity a singularly
passionate, grownup statement.
Such a drama is Cate Shortland's
LORE, set in occupied Germany in 1945, during the close of the Second
World War in Europe. The title character, Hannelore Dressler - "Lore"
for short - is the Aryan-beautiful daughter and eldest child in the
family of a Nazi officer with four other kids, dwelling in Third Reich
luxury in the Black Forest. But Berlin has just fallen, and both
Dressler parents fear reprisals by vengeful Allied soldiers (their own
neighbors, far less high on the Nazi rankings, turn their backs on the
family as well). Becoming refugees, the father simply burns family
papers and flees, while the mother, a National Socialst true believer
who sees no future after the death of Hitler, plans to turn herself in
to authorities and orders Hannelore to take the children to relative
safety of a grandmother in Hamburg.
It's a grim overland trek
for the five increasingly exhausted and starved children, past
occasional dead bodies, and - in the towns - breadlines maintained by
Allied soldiers that make ordinary Germans confront photos of Jewish
concentration-camp victims (many of the proud Germans simply think it's a
hoax conspiracy, a bit of foreshadowing of our own era). En route,
however, overtaxed Hannelore gets an unexpected, rather menacing
guardian - Thomas, a sullen and possibly violent young man who had
previously been imprisoned. He advises them on the best route overland,
through the dreaded Soviet-occupied zones, and he feeds the younger kids
- thus earning their friendship.
But to the nubile Lore, Thomas
poses a constant sexual threat, and furthermore his all-important
passport papers shock and offend her on another level, as they identify
him as one of the Jews she has been taught to loathe.
LORE is far
less built on thrills than on moments of despair, shocking recognition
and paradigm-shifts, as Lore, brought up in the Hitler Youth, learns,
finally, to disbelieve her German elders' lingering defenses that they
and their Fuhrer did nothing wrong in bringing about this calamity.
Whether one buys into Thomas as a transformative experience for the
heroine is a question that would leave lots of SPOILER ALERT notations
if gone into detail (and most savvy viewers will see his twist coming
way in advance). But the downbeat picture qualifies for me indeed as an
untypical sort of war movie - one with no big-scale battles or special
effects, that instead reflects the dawning sense of boundless guilt and
shameful epiphanies that one's own people were not the good guys in this
The G.I. Joe in me now asks, where's
the Japanese version of this story? Keeping in mind that, back in the
1980s, there was a two-part cartoon adaptation of Keiji Nakazawawa's
"Barefoot Gen" graphic novel that partially addressed that side. If I
get hired to expound on war movies I'll work harder to track
those down. But it's looking to be a, well, losing battle. (3 1/4 out of 4 stars)