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Germany/Australia/United Kingdom 2012
Directed by
Cate Shortland
109 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars


Synopsis: After her Nazi parents are imprisoned, Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) leads her younger siblings across a war-torn Germany as the Wehrmacht collapses and the Russians close on Berlin. Amidst the chaos, she encounters the mysterious refugee, Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), and she finds that she must trust someone from a world she was taught to hate and face the darkness within herself.

What I find so fascinating about this film, adapted from Rachel Seiffert’s novel The Dark Room, is the way in which it looks at things not only from a Jewish perspective as so many WWII films do but, much like the currently screening Wunderkinder, from the viewpoint of the children of Nazi parents, or in other words, subjects who are not so entrenched in their prejudices that they cannot see a different reality beyond the one that their upbringing has told them is true and correct.

Certainly Lore is not a likeable young woman. She has strength but also the arrogance that comes with Nazi ideology and delusions of superiority. Saskia Rosendahl’s performance captures this, along with her character’s emerging sexual awareness, in a most compelling manner. The anti-Jewish values her parents have inculcated her with are challenged when Thomas comes into their lives, and her conflicting feelings of attraction and revulsion towards him are stirred. If we feel alienated from Lore, at least she starts to question some of her dearly held beliefs by the end of the film and begins to get an awareness of just what her father had been party to.

As with Somersault, Shortland uses a poetic visual style but whereas that film was a modest, personal affair here she takes on much darker material in a much grimmer setting. Shot entirely in Europe by Adam Arkapaw who photographed Animal Kingdom and Snowtown I found the contrast between form and content compelling and overall, the film emotionally affecting.

Don’t be deterred from seeing this excellent film which will be Australia’s entry in the Best Foreign Film section of next year’s Academy Awards.




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