It's not easy to make a film about events surrounding World War II that's essentially different from all those that have come before. Since the mid-1940s, an average of at least 20 major World War II films have been produced internationally each year, a pace that has remained surprisingly steady even after the Internet made it easy to keep tabs on such things. Labeled "a German-Australian official co-production," Lore is a World War II movie unlike all the others. It turns the tables on cinematic convention by telling the story of a group of German children — the offspring of defiant, swastika-wearing Nazis — as they try to survive the weeks immediately following the end of the war and make their way on foot across Germany to the relative safety of their grandmother's house. This is a morally ambiguous path for a film to tread, and one that connects easily with a 21st-century world in which people of all nationalities cling to their own righteous versions of the truth.
Led by the eldest sibling — the 14-year-old, blonde-and-blue-eyed Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) — the kids face unimaginable horrors on their voyage through a post-apocalyptic landscape. Lore holds on to her ingrained hatred of Jews even when surrounded by the murder, sexual assault, squalor and starvation caused by antisemitism. But you can't help being sympathetic to all the kids' plight, especially given the innocence of the younger siblings. Australian co-writer and director Cate Shortland shot her story largely in extreme close-up, reveling in visual detail to enhance the intimacy of the story. She uses a German-language version of her script for its inherent authenticity. Surprisingly, these choices never seem arty or gimmicky. Lore may wind up in a different place than she started, but there's no escaping the identity thrust upon people by their heritage. — KEN KORMAN