Beauty & the bleak
It’s taken eight years for Cate Shortland, one of Australia’s most promising directors, to follow-up her spooky, bewitching debut,
Somersault. That film followed a teenager as she wandered around a ski resort in New South Wales.
Lore is set in Germany during the last days of the second World War.
That reads like a fairly jarring shift in theme and location. The surprise is that the new picture plays many of the same tunes we heard in Somersault. Once again, a young woman, alienated and confused, makes bad decisions in a beautifully lit netherworld. Morality is shaky. Angst is all about.
Lore, nonetheless, marks a sufficient step forward for Shortland. This is a rich, complex film that makes no hurried judgments about its characters. Any of the great German directors from the 1970s new wave – allusions can be observed – would have felt proud to put their name to it.
The picture begins with the title character (Saskia Rosendahl) watching as her father, an SS officer, and mother, some sort of fellow-traveller, burn their records, shoot the dog and flee the homestead. Left in charge, Lore gathers her four younger siblings – one still a baby – and wanders into the wilderness. Their plan is to make their way to their grandmother’s house in the north. Along the way, after passing scenes of rape and destruction, they meet an older tearaway who claims to be a dislocated Jew. But is he what he seems?
Lore rather brilliantly compresses conversations on public and private morality: citizens view pictures of death camps and question their veracity; Lore is driven by years of indoctrination. Though some character development takes place, nobody goes through any great epiphanies.
Lore is, however, most memorable for its visual sweep. Shortland composes her shots with great elegance. Adam Arkapaw’s damp, saturated photography is gorgeous.
Götterdämmerung has rarely been so quietly compelling.