A Historical drama
- Written by Cate Shortland and Robin Mukherjee
- Based on the novel The Dark Room," by Rachel Seiffert
- Directed by Cate Shortland
What happens when your entire world–wealth, security, parental love, and the values you were raised with–dissolve almost overnight? That’s what happens to Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), a teenage member of the Hitler Youth, when the Thousand Year Reich comes crashing down around her ears. But she doesn’t have much time to ponder morals or philosophy. With her parents gone–presumably arrested by American troops–she must lead her four younger siblings across a chaotic and destroyed Germany to her grandparent’s home.
Luckily, she acquires a helpful companion. Thomas (Kai Malina) is a bit older than her, good-looking, and considerably more experienced in basic survival. He knows how to hide, steal, and get across a river. And the two are obviously attracted to each other. But Thomas has a number tattooed on his forearm, and papers that clearly identify him as a Jew. Lore isn’t inclined to trust someone who she has been taught to hate and fear.
We see the story entirely from Lore’s point of view. We know only what she knows–and whatever we knew about the Nazis before the movie starts. All she knows, at the beginning, is that her parents are very scared, and expect to be arrested by the Americans who have occupied their corner of Germany. (We don’t know what her parents did, but they’re enthusiastic Nazis with a very nice house, so we can assume it was something awful.) Her introduction to the Holocaust are a series of photos that the Americans require people to examine in order to receive rations. We don’t know exactly what Lore thinks about it all, but others insist that the pictures are fake.
Filmmakers Cate Shortland and Robin Mukherjee don’t let you off with easy moralizing. Many of the ardent Nazis are also decent, generous, even loving people–at least to other Germans. Thomas, while in many ways the most virtuous character, is a thief and arguably a murderer, and is responsible for the most horrible tragedy to hit Lore and her siblings. While Lore’s own prejudicial worldview seems to open up a bit over the story, there’s no heart-warming realization.
In one scene, Lore walks away angrily from Thomas and the young children, only to find herself facing a slovenly, pot-bellied, middle-aged man. Any moviegoer knows what to expect. He’ll attempt to rape her, and Thomas will turn up at the right moment and rescue her. That sort of happens, but in a way that’s far more morally ambiguous than what I just described.
The film was shot quickly with a shaky hand-held camera, almost entirely in close-ups. I’m usually not a fan of shaky-cam, but this time it worked. Many scenes started with a close-up, often of an inanimate object, forcing you to wonder just where you were–an effective technique for a film told from the point of view of a confused teenager with grave responsibilities, lost both physically and morally.
Lore provides an intimate view of evil, not from the point of view of the victim, but of someone on the verge of realizing what her parents and their generation had done. It opens Friday at the Embarcadero and the Shattuck.