Lore is the nightmare version of The Sound of Music. In this alternate universe, the parents of the numerous lovely, hale children are Nazis. The scenes leading up to them carrying their suitcases across a gorgeous meadow in 1945 include their father burning his stacks and stacks of SS files ("Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring: CONFIDENTIAL "), then shooting the family German shepherd in the head. He's told eldest daughter Lore that the neighbor, Mrs. Richter, will be looking after the dog, but he barely waits for her to get back in the house before the gunshot. Lore knows what her father has done, and this is only the very beginning of the end of the world as she knows it.
Her mother and father are not around for long, and then the film follows Lore and her four younger siblings slowly slogging through an increasingly nightmarish landscape of burned-out buildings, rubble, refugees, begging, stealing, rape, death. They're trying to get to their grandmother's house, located across newly divided and almost uncrossable 1945 Germany, and the Black Forest here is from the darkest possible version of a Grimm's fairy tale. The cinematography is lush with saturated greens; the vivid yet dreamy lens of childhood makes even corpses crawling with ants almost beautiful. Even the mud, and there is a lot of it, is rich and deep and draws you in.
Lore's coming-of-age is dragged through this mud. She is traveling from shiny-eyed, golden-braided Hitler Youth to a young woman with cracked lips and a heart that may become stone before it can be broken. She sometimes seems to age by the frame. Australian director Cate Shortland has captured marvelous performances in Lore, especially Saskia Rosendahl in the title role and the rest of the children. The horror of their world is exquisitely—somehow lovingly—rendered. And nothing here is simple.