Beauty & the bleak

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

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.

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