Fearful Symmetries

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16 April, 2013

WFF '13: Lore



Lore is a semi-Bildungsroman set in the final days of World War II and features the title character, a girl settling into her teenage years. She is the dutiful eldest daughter of an SS officer and as the film opens Lore greets her father only to be told to start packing. Unbeknownst to the girl, the Battle of Berlin is lost. Lore's parents try to keep a good face on for their children but Lore begins to see the cracks in their story when her father shoots the family dog.

With Allied troops encroaching the family leaves their stately manor and take up residence in a farmhouse nestled in the Black Forest. Further cracks appear to Lore when she witnesses her parents' deteriorating relationship. Lore's world is already on a shaky foundation but gets totally turned upside down when her father is arrested by the Allies and her mother decides to turn herself in. Before doing so she instructs Lore to take her siblings to her grandmother who lives near Hamburg. In a wrenching scene, the woman can't honestly answer Lore's question about whether she will return and rejects her own infant son and thrusts him back into Lore's arms before regaining composure and saying her final farewells to her eldest daughter.

Until this point Lore seems dutiful yet sheltered. She knows how to be a good German girl but seems remarkably ignorant of what is happening in the world. But with her parents gone, Lore begins to understand that her life of comfort is over and that she must protect her siblings from a world which is not as nice as she was led to believe. She decides to adopt the facade of her parents and remain at the farmhouse with her sister and three brothers. But, when one of her brothers is caught stealing milk, the antagonism of the neighbors which had previously stayed just below the surface rises above. Lore gathers her brothers and sister together and they head for grandma's house.

They travel on foot across fields and down country roads. Brother Peter is but a toddler and cries almost constantly. At first the people they meet are not unfriendly but the horror of their situation begins to manifest itself at an abandoned farmhouse where Lore discovers the bloodied corpse of a woman. But she also encounters a young man resting upstairs. She apologizes and leaves him. They make their way to a refugee camp where they stop and rest.

Lore's innocence further retreats when she witnesses a man raping a woman. On a kiosk are photographs of Holocaust victims with messages from the Allies. Lore is transfixed by them and begins to realize that her country was not all that she was told. Pointedly, other onlookers decry the posters as propaganda. Also there is Thomas, the man Lore found previously in the farmhouse. He forces himself on her but she flees. Still, he follows them and helps out when the kids are stopped by U.S. forces. If the film hinted at Lore's views about Jews, they come to the fore as Thomas offers his identity papers to a G.I. and she sees that he is Jewish. She allows him to be their protector for the rest of the journey but doesn't want to be touched by this Jew.

Before Lore's mother leaves her, she tells her daughter to remember who she is and the film does a nice job of portraying Lore remembering that then forgetting as she is transformed from a child to a young woman. Necessity is the mother of invention. Seeing her family and her society dissolve before her eyes quickly teaches her that adults lie. Death was something of an abstraction to her until she came across that body at the farm. She also becomes a sexual creature in the course of her journey. Upon seeing the rape, she watches briefly with disgust but also fascination. Later, when she no longer has jewelry to offer in barter, she offers her body to a man with a boat that could ferry her group across a river. Lore had come a long way from daddy's little girl and she would go on to offer it to Thomas as well.

Thomas is a mysterious figure. He's in early 20s with dark hair and dark eyes both of which contrast with the blonde hair and blue eyes of Lore and her siblings. Although he tries to force himself on Lore at the camp, he eventually becomes an indispensable companion who protects the children, gathers food, and helps them navigate their newly-occupied country. Clinging to the beliefs with which she was raised, Lore is repulsed and stand-offish yet Thomas persists. However, seeing the photos of death camp prisoners, learning the anti-Semitic views of an old woman they encounter, and being the beneficiary of Thomas' tenderness and protectiveness which came out of nowhere, her views change. No longer a naïve girl who mimics her parents' views, Lore becomes a young woman who gains her own ideas forged from tribulation and experience.

Lore beautifully captures the German countryside but director Cate Shortland and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw like to keep the camera close. Shots of the characters walking always begin with close-ups of feet that wander in and out of focus. The same holds true when it comes to revealing inner states. Much of the time this involves people's faces but also simple human contact such as when hands reach for other hands or in bathing scenes where arms and legs dominate the screen. When Lore offers herself to Thomas, everything is in close-up with her hand taking his and placing it inside her dress between her legs. This style draws Lore away from the larger tragedies of the war and the Holocaust and makes it an intimate portrait of a girl becoming a woman.


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|| Palmer, 8:16 PM

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