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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

30 April

Adolf Hitler kills himself, 1945

On this day in 1945, Adolf Hitler, the Führer and Reich Chancellor of Germany, also the Reichsstatthalter of Prussia, killed himself. On 22 April 1945, Hitler had railed against his generals, having discovered that his orders for SS Obergruppenführer Steiner and his detachment to attack the Red Army had been flatly ignored. On 23 April, Prime Minister Göring, in a telegram from Berchtesgaden, pointing out that Berlin was surrounded by the Russians and Hitler incapacitated, suggested that he, Göring, should assume leadership of Germany. Hitler responded by having Göring arrested and removing him from all government positions. On 28 April Hitler discovered that his minster of the Interior, Heinrich Himmler, was secretly talking to the Allies in pursuit of a surrender. It was also discovered that Himmler’s liaison officer in Berlin, Hermann Fegelein, was attempting to flee Berlin, in civilian clothes and with foreign cash in his possession. Hitler ordered Himmler’s arrest and had Fegelein shot. The following day Hitler married Fegelein’s sister-in-law, Eva Braun. After a small wedding breakfast he dictated his will. Later that day he was informed of the execution of Mussolini. The following day the new Mrs Hitler took cyanide and killed herself, before Hitler shot himself with his own Walther PPK 7.65mm. Their bodies were carried above ground, doused in petrol and burned. Two days later Berlin surrendered.

Lore (2012, dir: Cate Shortland)

Australian director Cate Shortland turned Abbie Cornish into a star with her 2004 film Somersault. And she’s up to something fairly similar in Lore, a film about a similarly blonde girl (Saskia Rosendahl) having a similar sexual awakening in very dissimilar circumstance. Because Somersault took place in modern-day Australia and Lore takes place right after the end of the Second World War. And it’s about a pretty young thing who has grown up in a Hitler-loving family, and who is now trekking across country with her four siblings, because her parents have been arrested, in an attempt to get to safety and her grandparents’ house many days’ walk away.

Shortland deliberately gives us the wild Germany of Hitler’s imaginings – full of birdsong, sun-dappled lanes, shady glens – and contrasts it with shots of raped women, refugees, soldiers on the rampage, pictures from the death camps, the ugliness of a post-war world and the ugliness inside Lore, a girl who knows no better. Where the ideology meets reality. Taking place in a country undergoing denazification, the film is about the denazification of one single person, most obviously in the scenes where Lore – all Aryan hairstyle and dirndl skirt – meets a Jewish teenage boy (Kai Malina), who saves the entire family by taking them all under his wing. Suddenly, in the post-War world, being a Jew has its advantages.

As she showed in Somersault, Shortland is a dab hand at making girls look pretty and uses sexual awakening as a metaphor for knowledge. If the lusty stuff gets in the way of the film a touch here and there, at least this isn’t yet another of a long line of Good German Movies, praise be. The Germans in this film aren’t dupes who have been taken in by Hitler; they’re complicit, and guilt is written all over their faces. Similarly, Lore’s journey isn’t from darkness to light, it’s from ignorance to the very tiniest beginnings of understanding.

Why Watch?

  • An unusually muted war drama
  • Saskia Rosendahl’s performance
  • The handheld cinematography of Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom)
  • A worthy adaptation of Rachel Seiffert’s novel The Dark Room

Lore – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2014

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