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Movie review: 'Lore'

Posted 4:47pm on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013

Unrated; 108 min.

While stories dealing with the suffering surrounding World War II and the Holocaust are a dramatic staple, Lore flips things around and involves us in a different side of war, in the confusion and pain of the young children of the Nazi hierarchy left alone and abandoned by the exigencies of fate.

For Lore, short for Hannelore, at 14 the oldest of five siblings, the reversal is even more extreme: Everything she has been told about the world and the way it works, from the inevitable victory of the Thousand Year Reich on down, turns out to have been untrue. At an age in which curiosity about romance and sexuality is already making her life seem different and new, Lore (mesmerizingly played by Saskia Rosendahl) has to deal as well with questions of survival and trust.

Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland's first feature, Somersault, helped push Abbie Cornish to stardom, and this new one reaffirms her status as a director whose strength is emotional, empathetic filmmaking.

Lore starts with what will in effect be the last moments of normal childhood Lore or her siblings will have. Then a military truck pulls up and Vati, the father (Hans-Jochen Wagner), a top SS officer, arrives all in a rush, telling Mutti, the glacial blonde mother (Ursina Lardi), that their house must be abandoned.

Soon enough both Vati and Mutti disappear from their children's lives. With Lore in charge, the five siblings have to navigate a landscape as chaotic and lawless as anything Mad Max had to experience.

Amid all this, Lore comes across Thomas (Kai Malina). There is mutual attraction here, but both parties feel reluctant about it.

Even with this kind of setup, Lore has been made with too much care and attention to go to expected places. The Jewish family snapshots glimpsed in Thomas' wallet belonged to Shortland's German Jewish in-laws, who fled the country in 1938. That sense of personal connection means everything in a film in which lives are interrupted and twisted out of shape, never to regain their original form.

Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas; opens April 5 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

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