The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Face to face with the lost children of Germany

with 16 comments

My mother used to tell me that I was one eight Jewish. Sort of.

Not in a religious way – we didn’t have a schedule where we jumped between religions, making a visit to Judaism one day out of eight, although that might be an interesting experience, now that I think of it. My parents were devoted atheists. What she referred to was blood quality. Genes. My father’s grandmother was born Jewish. Admittedly she had converted as she got married, and my mother wasn’t Jewish at all. But nevertheless: there was something that connected me to the Jewish people, if nothing else my looks, as people used to tell me.

According to the family history, this particular branch originated from Poland. I didn’t know anything about it; the roots had been cut off as my grandmother died when my father was still a young child. But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, the fact that there was this however thin and remote connection. I kept thinking about it, especially when I heard about what had happened during the war.

“You would have been in a risky position if you had lived back then”, my mother told me. And this got my head spinning. “What if…?”  What if my ancestor never had moved to Sweden? What if my grand-grand-mother hadn’t converted? What if Germany had won the war? Would I have been a Jew? Would one eighth have been enough to send me off to the death camps? Would I have been alive today?

And so it came that read every Holocaust themed novel I could come across, over and over again. Anne Frank’s Diary, The Holocaust and Playing for Time were among my favourites, later on followed by Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus – to this day the best I’ve read in the genre.

During all those years I never reflected all that much over the situation immediately after the war, and I couldn’t have cared less for what happened to the people on the losing side, the Nazis. Were they overwhelmed by shame as the nature of the “final solution” dawned upon them? Or did they still mourn their fallen leader in their hearts? I couldn’t have cared less. My entire focus was on the victims and few people who miraculously had survived despite all odds

Brainwashed children
This was the luggage that I brought with me as I went to see Lore, which is a recent Australian (I know, it sounds weird, I don’t understand it either) movie taking place in the post-war Germany. A group of siblings, ranging from toddlers to teenagers, try to survive from day to day as their Nazi parents end up in jail. I don’t know if my Holocaust obsession had something to do with it, but it was a thought provoking – and not entirely easy watch.

As a parent my first instinct was to root for those poor, lost kids, innocent victims of the brainwashing they’ve been exposed to. You can’t blame the toddlers for repeating songs they’ve been taught to sing. How could they possibly know about anything else? But I have to admit that my patience got through hard trials as I watched the oldest sister, a teenager, clinging to the horrendous views on Jews. Not even after being rescued by a Jew is she ready to rethink. The journey they’re about to make is long and laborious, both physically and mentally.

What makes this movie stand out is that it carefully avoids any oversimplifications or stereotypes. Told in a different manner, it could easily have become a predictable tear-jerker, writing the message on your nose about how those Nazi kids are getting de-programmed. But it never takes that route. It stays low-key and therefor also believable, never allowing me to sort people into black and white boxes without giving it any further thought, which I admit that I’ve done in the past.

Lore stayed with me for a very long time after I watched it. I have no doubt that it will end up far up on my top list of 2013.

Lore (Cate Shortland, AU/GE 2012) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

April 9, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in Lore

16 Responses

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  1. I really enjoyed this one too. There was almost a stock fairytale structure to it, but the performances were outstanding, and the style was impressive. I’ll definitely be watching out for future efforts from Shortland and Rosendahl

    Bonjour Tristesse

    April 9, 2013 at 6:01 am

    • Yes, it’s beautifully made, artistic and yet very accessible. My 18 year old asked me the other day if I had seen this movie. It turned out a friend of hers had watched it and given it high praise. This made me happy to hear.


      April 9, 2013 at 7:22 am

  2. As an Australian I’m glad to hear one of our films making an impact all the way over on the other side of the world, gladder still that it’s such a positive one. Honestly I’m just as confused as you about how this is an Australian picture but I really liked it nonetheless; the audience I was with were rather uncomfortable throughout though and did a lot of that awkward laughing.

    It’s a drastically different film but Shortland’s previous picture, ‘Somersault’, is very Australian and very good. I think you’d like it if you could somehow find a copy.

    • What a strange response from the audience. I certainly didn’t see anything funny about it. I must say that I’ve got some very good experience with Australian cinema over the last year. Right off I think of Animal Kingdom and Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, both great movies.


      April 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      • I guess it has something to do with how far away we are from what happened; even though there were many Australian men an women affected by WWII ‘The Nazi’s lack a certain reality here and subconsciously Hitler is probably known more for standing alongside Darth Vader as a villain than Angela Merkel as a Chancellor (not to connect the two philosophically, just in terms of position) and so scenes such as those with the old woman who mourned the loss of the fuhrer and fawned over the songs praising his name came across as more bizarre than beautiful to much of the Aussie audience who were already suffering with the films slow pace.

        Understandable but undesirable as someone who was otherwise involved in what was happening on screen.

        • Such a strange reaction. I didn’t feel the movie as slowly paced at all, and I’m pretty sensitive for those things (I fall asleep easily). I guess I was so wrapped up in the story.


          April 10, 2013 at 12:29 am

  3. This sounds fascinating and disturbing. I am definitely adding it to my list.


    April 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

  4. I will definitely try to remember this film, and see if I can get around to watching it at some point. It sounds like something I would be greatly interested in: the German people themselves during that time.

    I hope I would have been brave enough to stand up and be counted: I fear I would not.


    April 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    • I hope you’ll get the chance to see it somehow. It’s a small festival/arthouse theatre title, but you never know.


      April 10, 2013 at 12:30 am

  5. Great and very interesting post, Jessica. Watched the trailer for Lore a few months ago and was really intrigued. I’ll seek it out.


    April 10, 2013 at 8:30 am

  6. I need to be in the right frame of mind to watch a Holocaust film (consider it a leftover from the time I watched Schindler’s List the first time thinking it was a Spielberg action film – don’t ask, I was young) but this sounds interesting, if a little harrowing. Can’t say I’ve heard of Lore, even here in Australia – which is probably more an indictment on the Aussie film industry’s lack of ability to market itself! – but I’ll definitely be checking it out…


    April 14, 2013 at 3:41 am

    • I think it’s a co-production of some kind to be fair, but what I recall from the text credits, there were a lot of names apart from the director that sounded English. The actors were all German though. I definitely recommend it!


      April 14, 2013 at 9:38 pm

  7. Have you read Upon The Head of a Goat? It and its follow-up are extremely good stories about the Holocaust.


    June 20, 2013 at 7:40 am

    • Nope. I haven’t even heard of it. It sounds as something I should check out.


      July 15, 2013 at 12:05 am

  8. […] Lore A movie about nazi children that manages to not sort people into boxes. It stayed with me for a long time after watching it. […]

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