In 2004 Somersault swept the AFI awards and had critics heralding Cate Shortland as the new voice of Australian cinema. Lore, Shortland’s long-awaited second feature, confirms it. Based on Rachel Sieffert’s novel The Dark Room, Lore opens in the idyllic German countryside following Hitler’s suicide. Americans troops roll into Berlin and 15-year-old Lore’s (Saskia Roshendahl) parents, Nazi party high-ups, are arrested. With her four young siblings in tow, Lore starts the harrowing trek to her aunt’s house in Hamburg. Thomas (Kai Malina) a resourceful Jewish boy, tags along, beginning something akin to a bleak romance.
Lore is caught between adolescence and adulthood, the pull of newfound sexuality and her sense of responsibility. Thomas’s dark eyes and yellow star inspire a mix of desire and revulsion in the perplexed Aryan. In Lore, Rosendahl creates that rare protagonist who is sympathetic without losing complexity. The director’s commitment to her heroine's point of view defines the experience. Shortland knows there are few sights more distressing than war through the eyes of a child and the camera’s gaze revels in violence and beauty alike – sun shining through the trees, a fresh bullet hole.
Lore’s identity crisis is framed by the moral turmoil of 1945 Germany. A widow dyes all her clothes black, a picture of the Fuhrer still hanging on her wall. Germans feed on American rations and stare at posters of mass graves, wondering whether the images are real. Shortland lets the shots speak for themselves: there’s no orchestra tugging at the heart strings. It’s a fresh take on worn material, foregoing Schindler’s List heavy-handedness. Shortland crafts a journey of broad emotional strokes and nuanced characters, terrifying and beautiful, an intoxicating ride through the heart of darkness.