There have been many films about the evils of Nazis, but few stories tell of the innocent children forced by the world to atone for the sins of their parents. Based on the middle section of the novel The Dark Room by British writer Rachel Seiffert, Lore follows five siblings, led by the eldest daughter, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), who are forced to flee their well-appointed country home in the Black Forest of Germany in the final days of World War II, after their SS Officer father disappears and their mother turns herself in.
As they head towards their grandmother’s house in Hamburg, the children repeatedly run into Thomas (Kai Malina), a young man who carries papers identifying himself as a Jew – papers that act as an almost magical object that makes it easy to get out of trouble along the way, such as when the group is questioned by officers at checkpoints, Thomas just pulls out his papers and claims the rest of the kids are his siblings. Thomas is clearly attracted to Lore, who is repulsed by Jews, and rejects his advances. It soon becomes clear that he is following them, but Thomas helps them multiple times, making the kids question what they had been taught by their parents about Jews, Germans, and themselves.
Lore is a rare film that acknowledges the power of beauty in a way that’s not played for laughs. Thomas helps Lore and her siblings out of attraction to her. Later, Lore comes on to a man so that Thomas can steal his boat. Lots of films make fun of the way women use their “wiles” to get things, but Lore shows how beauty can be a tool of survival for a young woman who has little else to help and protect her. The film has a fairytale quality, from the basic plotline of a journey (to the grandmother’s house no less!), the loss of innocence, the way Thomas seems at different times like a predator and protector, and Thomas’ magic papers. Like many fairy tales, Lore shows the strength and fortitude of a girl in a seemingly hopeless situation.