October 2012

Arts & Letters

'Lore' by Cate Shortland (director)

By Fenella Souter

It’s spring 1945 and in a handsome German house deep in a forest, the Dressler family are preparing to flee. The unthinkable is on their doorstep: the Führer is losing the war; the victors are about to become the vanquished. Past and future are deftly sketched in the opening moments of Lore: a doomed German shepherd barks savagely in a blue night; rosy-cheeked children help to pack the family crystal and ferry documents to a bonfire stoked by their father, an SS officer freshly back from killing Jews and communists in Belarus. His harried wife, her Aryan elegance already coming apart at the seams, sorts through the study. The camera pauses on a ringbinder marked ‘Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring – CONFIDENTIAL’.

This beautifully shot, powerful and tense work from Australian director Cate Shortland (Somersault) is based on Rachel Seiffert’s novel, The Dark Room, about postwar German guilt and contrition. The film centres on the couple’s eldest daughter, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), creamy-skinned, blue-eyed and reflexively Hitler-loving. She’s a Wagnerian maiden in braids about to be rudely awoken from the spell cast over the land.

When her parents are taken away by the Allies, the teenager must lead her four young siblings across a stunned, divided Germany to their grandmother’s northern home, in a journey that is part fairytale, part Dantesque descent as Lore is exposed to the real Reich that has been festering beneath her untroubled existence in Bavaria. It takes her some time to understand that her kind of German is now the wrong one, and even then she’s not quite sure why. There’s bewilderment when she gives a “Heil Hitler” to a German farmer only to receive an annoyed grunt in reply. Her confusion spikes when the young family’s fortunes come to rest on the shoulders of a Jewish refugee, Thomas (Kai Malina). Lore wrestles with mistrust, and lust.

Shortland’s film, loaded with stunning images, is lyrical but tough. It could have settled for cliché – girl realises Nazi parents were evil – but instead presents something closer to the complicated, misguided dream of an arrogant nation. The Holocaust, though mentioned only obliquely, is monstrously present. In a centre where the Americans have pinned up photos of the death camps, Lore overhears a conversation that sounds like a black joke: “I had to look at dead Jews for hours just to get bread,” says one man. “Yes, but you got two loaves,” says the other. There are no laughs for Lore, however. The uniformed officer in one of the photos is her father.

Fenella Souter

Fenella Souter is a Sydney-based feature writer.

Cover: October 2012

October 2012

From the front page

Coalition comedy hour

The PM’s “victory” on energy didn’t last a week

Image of Peter Temple

Remembering Peter Temple

The acclaimed Australian crime writer had a deep appreciation for the folly of things

The death doula

Annie Whitlocke is helping to break the silence around grief and dying

Alt right on the night

One of the extreme right’s greatest harms may turn out to be opportunity cost


In This Issue

'Silent House', Orhan Pamuk, Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

'Silent House' by Orhan Pamuk

'Questions of Travel', Michelle de Kretser,
Allen and Unwin; $39.99

'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

'Montebello', Robert Drewe, Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

'Montebello' by Robert Drewe

Brett Whiteley painting Francis Bacon's portrait, London, 1984. Photograph by John Edwards. Image courtesy of Art Gallery NSW.

Anecdotes

Remembering Australian painters


More in Arts & Letters

Covers of Motherhood and Mothers

To have or not to have: Sheila Heti’s ‘Motherhood’ and Jacqueline Rose’s ‘Mothers’

Heti’s novel asks if a woman should have a child; Rose’s nonfiction considers how society treats her if she does

Image of Beyoncé and Jay-Z

The disappointment of The Carters’ ‘Everything Is Love’ and Kanye West’s ‘Ye’

New albums from Beyoncé and Jay-Z and Kanye West bare all yet share nothing

Image of Mike Parr, Underneath the Bitumen the Artist

Mike Parr’s invisible performance and Tasmania’s complex past

Underneath the bitumen in Hobart, history becomes art

Image of Ronan Farrow

The end of American diplomacy: Ronan Farrow’s ‘War on Peace’

The Pulitzer Prize winner explains how the State Department’s problems started long before Trump


More in Noted

‘Less’ by Andrew Sean Greer

The Pulitzer Prize–winning novel is an engaging story of love and literary misadventure

Hannah Gadsby: ‘Nanette’

Believe the hype about the Tasmanian comedian’s Netflix special

Cover of The Lebs

‘The Lebs’ by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

A fresh perspective on Muslim youth in Sydney’s west

Cover of A Sand Archive

‘A Sand Archive’ by Gregory Day

Day grasps landscape as an intimate living thing


Read on

Image of Peter Temple

Remembering Peter Temple

The acclaimed Australian crime writer had a deep appreciation for the folly of things

Image from BADFAITH Collective’s ‘Exquisite Corpse’

‘Exquisite Corpse’: reinventing a parlour game in immersive VR

BADFAITH Collective build a Surrealist body at the Melbourne International Film Festival

Image of Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton’s leadership ambitions

A reminder of why the minister’s recent dog-whistling should be of concern

Image from ‘Sharp Objects’

‘Sharp Objects’ blurs the edges

The cruel complexities of women’s lives propel this Amy Adams-led thriller


×
×