At the end of WWII, Germany was in shambles. The rise and fall of Hitler affected the entire world, but director Cate Shortland‘s latest film, Lore , explores the most unfortunate victims of the war. Set just after Allied forces have won the war, the story focuses on Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) and her family. Her father is an officer in the SS, finally returning to their home. The welcome is short though, as her parents begin packing and getting rid of anything that ties them to the Nazi party. When her parents are finally captured, Lore is left to take her younger sister and three younger brothers, including an infant, 900 kilometres across a now divided Germany to her Grandmother’s house. Along the way they meet Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a young Jewish man who decides to help them. Lore must now struggle with her upbringing as a Hitler youth and the fact that they can only survive with help from a former enemy.

Almost everything about this film is fantastically done. The acting of Saskia Rosendahl and Kai-Peter Malina is the most powerful part of the film. Rosendahl delivers a perfect performance as Lore. She strikes a balance of naive youth and blossoming woman in just the right way. As she struggles to find away across Germany, she’s forced to use every advantage she has, including exploiting the fact that she’s a young girl. Forced to become an adult too fast, the experience leaves her drained, a fact that is obvious in her expression. Having to rely on Thomas, a man she’s been raised to view as the enemy, only makes her journey more troubling and Rosendahl covers all the turmoil and emotion like an expert. Kai-Peter Malina does just as well as Thomas. Well aware that the children are German, his portrayal shows the struggle that Thomas has as he attempts to help people who would have killed him only weeks earlier. Malina and Rosendahl carry the entire film, which is frequently without dialogue, using just their expressions to convey their past and present.

Not only are the performances exceptional, but the cinematography is gorgeous. From the lush, green forests, to the muddy wasteland left behind by war, every element is given the same attention. This can also cause some viewers to be put off. The camera will linger just as long on a snail in the garden as it will on a dead body the children come upon. This was a reality at the time, and the camera doesn’t let anybody forget that. The beautiful landscape is in sharp contrast to the dark story that is being told, reminding the viewer that beauty can be found in the most unpleasant of places.

If there’s one fault with the film, it’s the very slow pace. There are long stretches without any dialogue, and much of the film follows the group as they walk through woods. Although the running time is only 108 minutes, it can feel much longer. The end result is very satisfying though, and it will stay with you for days afterwards.

Is Lore Opening Weekend Worthy?

It’s not essential but if you’re looking for a quiet afternoon at the movies, this is a good bet.

Lore opens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, May 31, 2013. Check the website for screening info.

Lore Trailer

Lore Production Gallery