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  Lore Germany Year Zero
Year: 2012
Director: Cate Shortland
Stars: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai-Peter Malina, Nele Trebs, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner, André Frid, Mika Seidel, Eva-Maria Hagen, Antonia Cäcilia Holfelder, Friederike Frerichs, Fabian Stumm, Sven Pippig, Philip Wiegratz, Katrin Pollitt, Hendrik Arnst
Genre: Drama, War, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Germany during May 1945 and the Allies are conducting their final push to overwhelm the Nazi forces, something panicking various Germans whether they are part of the military, the authorities, or otherwise. For Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) she is a teenage girl whose mother (Ursina Lardi) is close to breaking point out in their country house just as her high-ranking husband (Hans-Jochen Wagner) returns home. He sets about burning his papers in the courtyard as Lore wonders what will happen next: she has been so indoctrinated that she cannot conceive of her side losing the war, so when her mother informs her in shock that the Fuhrer is dead, she still doesn't consider they are defeated...

Most war movies featuring children place them as innocents caught up in an adult-created turmoil, but with Lore, director Cate Shortland had a different angle, showing the youngsters as basically brainwashed in the ways of the far right. Crucially, that did not make them deserve their fate, as while we have sympathy with them it is really the older generations who doomed them, and the grown-ups Lore and her family of brothers and sister meet on their eventual journey are by and large sticking to their guns. Except those guns have been taken away, and they are revealed as lost and pathetic without the leadership of the Nazis to command them, though it remains the kids who you have to have some faith in.

Lore makes that difficult as you think she should be old enough to know better, but she does wake up to the dire predicament both ideological and physical which her olders but not necessarily betters have landed her in right up to her neck. It's keeping her head above water, and those of her siblings, which occupies the rest of the plot when their parents abandon them to be taken away by the Allies - Lore is in the American zone - and she must become the children's guide and protector with very little experience in either field. This could have made for a tense if uneasy war thriller with the characters dodging bullets as they try to reach safety, yet Shortland had other aims, rendering a more poetic if no less disquieting experience for the audience.

Obviously, for the characters the experience is like hell on Earth as society had broken down to be ruled over by a military who are just as likely to rape and murder as they are to assist - and they are meant to be the good guys. It was interesting that you don't often see the crimes of the Allies in reaction to the even more horrendous war crimes of the Nazis depicted in World War II movies, although such incidents did occur (the Russians were especially cruel in that respect), and while Shortland did not make the true horror incredibly explicit, the threat is present. Early on Lore stumbles across a raped and murdered body in an abandoned house, and that's enough to make us worry for her no matter how twisted her state of mind has become through the Nazis.

If the whole movie had been like this, Lore would have simply ended up as hatefilled as she had been at the beginning, if not even more resentful, but there's someone she and her family meet on the way who has an ambiguous relationship with the rest of the world, and he calls himself Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina). He steps in to "save" them from an American patrol by showing the soldiers papers and claiming he is their older brother, but Lore has seen him before and if she was not suspicious enough already, Thomas appears to be Jewish, a race she has been taught to despise all her life. Now she must confront her anti-Semitism head on as he manages to look after them in his taciturn fashion, leaving Lore's bearings spinning as she finds herself attracted to the young man, but trying to resist him because of her Nazi upbringing she is now being forced to question. It's one of the most effective aspects of the film, yet elsewhere Shortland exhibited a touch too much of the Terrence Malick influence for a dreamlike mood when something more concrete would be preferable. Music by Max Richter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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