Germany, 1945, and Lore is a pretty, blond-haired 14-year-old raised on Nazi hate as her dad is a high-ranking SS officer. Cate Shortland’s dark and upsetting film is told from the point of view of defeated Germans after WWII. The Fuhrer is dead. The Allies are rounding up Nazi top brass. We meet Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) as her dad is leaving for a prison camp – not before burning documents and medical records of atrocities. Her mum follows him, telling Lore to take her little brothers and sisters through the Black Forest to their grandmother’s house. Like the bleakest fairytale you can imagine, these babes in the woods start their road trip. This is the land of the defeated. We don’t see any actual violence, but there are bodies and everywhere people unhinged by war. In one startling scene, a man backs away from Lore crying, ‘Child, you smell of death!’ The stench of evil has contaminated even the air.
Rosendahl is astonishing as Lore, who is very much her father’s daughter. She looks with disgust at a crippled boy. She hates Jews. But during her journey the spell is broken. Slowly the truth is revealed – she has been lied to by her parents and society. There’s an incredibly intense moment when she sees posters put up by the allies – the first images of concentration camps, piles of bodies heaped on top of each other like rubbish. And she meets a refugee boy – a Jew. It’s a close, intimate film – sometimes so close you can feel the breath of its characters in your face.