Dir. Cate Shortland
(2013, Not Rated, 109 minutes)

Australia’s official entry to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, the German-language Lore has a unique perspective on the immediate aftermath of World War II. It focuses on the experience of a German teenager, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), who doesn’t understand what is happening when her soldier father comes home, burns all his documents, and takes the entire family away to a remote house where they must hide.

Soon, Lore is left to fend for herself and her four siblings, and she must deliver them safely to their aunt’s house across the country. Along the way they meet a boy, Thomas (Kai Malina), whom Lore doesn’t trust because he is Jewish, but she doesn’t really understand what happened during the war. Her gradual process of discovery – coming to understand the truth about her parents, and by extension her country – is symbolic of the horrific sins passed down from the Third Reich to their sons and daughters – the legacy of the Holocaust, which was only then beginning to be understood.

The film, directed and co-written by Cate Shortland based on a novel by Rachel Seiffert, is most impressive in how intimately it shows the strain – and shame – of German civilians following World War II; Lore and her family must navigate the new geography of a nation carved into pieces by Allied forces, while facing scorn for crimes they didn’t commit, though Lore’s knee-jerk dislike of Jews indicates how deeply embedded that hatred is in her culture and how in her uncritical acceptance of that hatred she, in her way, is also complicit.

But the film is draining, and not only in the way such a dark story plays on our emotions. The tone is necessarily grim, but at times its dirge-like rhythm is wearying, and Shortland uses too many extreme closeups; my eyes grew tired. But as an allegory, with young Lore standing in for a generation’s loss of innocence, it has stayed with me.