I liked the idea—but found the film vaguely unsatisfying.

Lore was the entry from Austria for the category of Best Foreign Language Film for the 85th Academy Awards in 2013, though it was not recognized as one of the final nominees.  While there were some aspects of the film I liked, the overall package wasn’t especially strong and perhaps this is why the film did not receive a nomination.

When the film begins in 1945, the Nazi government is toppling.  This is impacting one particular family in the movie, the Dresslers.  Apparently the parents were war criminals—though exactly what they did is never really discussed in the film.  All you know is that the mother and father are gone and the oldest child, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), has been told by her mother to get herself and her siblings to their grandmother’s house near Hamburg.  Considering that they have no money, they are in the far eastern portion of Germany (or perhaps in Poland) and want to travel hundreds of miles to the west as well as Lore appearing to be about 15, this is a very daunting task.  Most of the film consists of the children scrounging for food and scheming to make their way to safety and shelter.  Eventually, however, Lore becomes disillusioned and their reunion with Grandma isn’t so happy after all and the film ends.

Directed by
Cate Shortland
Saskia Rosendahl, Kai-Peter Malina, Nele Trebs
Release Date
8 February 2014
Martin’s Grade: C+

There is so much about this film that seems unanswered and vague.  Who, exactly, the man was who teamed up with them and helped them is never really revealed—nor his fate.  Similarly, why the parents (especially the mother) are war criminals isn’t too clear.  But, most importantly, exactly why Lore becomes disenchanted isn’t really 100% clear.  You assume that she has become skeptical about the Nazis and the rightness of the cause…but her actions in the end of the film could be attributed to many things—such as the repressive atmosphere at Grandma’s.  And, if she was disillusioned by the Nazis or horrified at their evil, what exactly caused this change in Lore?  Could it simply be looking at the identity papers and photos from one supposedly dead Jew?  And, apart from Lore growling at Grandma and stomping on some trinkets, how are she and the siblings going to deal with all this?  All I know is that so much of the film is left to the interpretation of the viewer and had I not read a brief summary on IMDB, I would have felt lost.

The idea of a girl slowly coming to realize the evil of her country and parents IS intriguing—and in the documentary Hitler’s Children you see interviews with surviving family members of many of the worst Nazi butchers of the war.  However, with Lore, the message seemed muted and not nearly as compelling.  This, combined with the extensive use of the hand-held camera and a slow plot, made this film a bit of a letdown for me.  While it’s not a bad film, it sure could have been a lot more interesting.

If you do want to see the film, be advised that there is a decent amount of nudity and rather graphic depiction of suicides that are unsettling.  I would have expected Lore and her siblings to perhaps see photos of dead Jews or concentration camp victims—but you don’t.  These folks were mostly Nazis who either killed themselves with gunshots to their head or were murdered brutally.

Lore was just released on DVD and is also available through Netflix.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer