Lore (***) – Submitted to the Academy Awards this year for “Best Foreign Language Film,” Australia’s Lore revisits a painful time in history that most would rather sweep under a rug. It’s both a brave and bold task convincing audiences to sympathize with German defenders of the Nazi regime, but writer-director Cate Shortland effortlessly carries out this duty with apt confidence. Following the arrest of her SS military father and mother immediately after World War II is won by the Allies, titular heroine “Lore” is forced to traverse the dense and dangerous German landscape with her younger siblings in tow, hoping to reach the safe haven of their aunt’s country home before anti-Nazi violence draws their innocent blood. Along the way, the tight-knit family forms an unlikely alliance with a young man who could very well be the key to their survival. Lore’s perspective on life, humanity and the strict indoctrinations instilled in her by kin and countrymen begin to first muddle, and then shift toward some greater realization following the time she and her siblings spend with this mysterious companion.
Shortland’s eye for detail is strong, specifically the way she pulls back the veil on a war-torn Germany by honing in on its native beauty. Like its inhabitants, Germany is far more than meets the eye, as the sprawling hills and vibrant woodland life relay a very important, quasi-allegorical message to the Western, non-Axis world: Germany is not inherently evil – it’s fascist, murderous dictator was, as were those that followed him in earnest, unquestioning support. To subject an entire nation, its land and people to such hostility because of a regime that governed through fear and brainwashing is unfair, yet it’s so easy to do given the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. Sometimes when we are angry, we tend to lose our way…and in the process, our own humanity. Lore reminds us of that from both sides of the war, although the film sometimes becomes distracted by its own aesthetic craftsmanship – cinematographically, at times, Lore is reminiscent of a Terrence Malick or Andrea Arnold feature, but at what cost? What’s missing, thanks to Shortland’s well-intentioned yet slightly problematic obsession with Adam Arkapaw’s cam. erawork, is a total explication of young Lore’s reversal of thinking. A tighter, more understandable transition to the newly transformed Lore in the film’s final moments would have made said conclusion all the more powerful and believable. Minor qualms aside, Lore’s interest in revealing the post-WWII German perspective and experience, alongside its value as a compelling family drama, makes it a significant addition to the already worthy pile of war-based international film treasures. Music Box Film’s Lore just released this weekend in New York and Los Angeles, and will soon follow with a national rollout. Los Angeles theatergoers can check out the film at Laemmle’s Royal in West L.A., Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, Laemmle’s Town Center 5 in Encino and Edwards Westpark 8 in Irvine. Also read Tiff Chai’s full review from AFI Fest right here.
The Gatekeepers (***½) – In an awards season filled with outstanding documentary contenders, The Gatekeepers would be at the top of my personal Oscar ballot if I held such voting privilege. No, it might not be as socially necessary as How to Survive a Plague, as morally enraging as The Invisible War, as painfully revealing as 5 Broke Cameras, or as sincerely heartwarming as Searching For Sugar Man, but I’d be lying if I said I preferred any of these exemplary docs over Dror Moreh’s sensational, accomplished The Gatekeepers. When you’re granted the opportunity to interview six former heads of Shin Bet – Israel’s government-sanctioned security agency – there is no room for sidestepping. You either ask the hard, interrogative questions or you turn off your camera and shut down filming for good. Moreh swings all appropriate punches, and what results is something both shocking and entirely revelatory. Israel, for an hour and a half of rare and investigative footage, seems to cop to the notion that mistakes were made, poor judgment was conducted and morality was often thrown into the wind during the fifty-plus years of Palestinian occupation. I hate bringing my own personal politics into things, but my ethnic background is Jewish in origin and I’ve always staunchly, perhaps blindly stood in favor of Israel and all the actions it’s taken. And while my overall loyalties haven’t changed significantly, I see more than ever that there are multiple sides to every story, and no single party is entirely innocent of criminality. The thing with these interviews, especially the amazingly introspective one with Ami Ayalon, is that in an age where nations are forced to put up a unified front for the country, it’s nice to see admittance to mistakes and extreme disorderly conduct. For when countries admit to faults in their war-raging history, they’re just a giant step closer to human understanding and eventual peace.
No, Israel and Palestine might never see eye to eye, nor is the violence coming to an end anytime soon, but at least there is hope when important figureheads admit to their mistakes, driven by guilt and an ever-present desire to make peace with their enemies. Now that the doors are wide open, and Israel is firmly confronting their own misdeeds, suddenly renegotiation and rational, humane thought doesn’t seem so out of reach. Dror Moreh’s documentary is a masterful film that pulls back the curtains on a dark truth by moving across many decades in history in order to come full circle and thoroughly critique Israel’s shoddy tactics. In some ways, The Gatekeepers is the documentary version of Zero Dark Thirty, determined and grittily real but never shying away from the underlying darkness that lie within the ones we all consider to be “the good guys.” Sony Pictures Classics’ The Gatekeepers is currently in theaters, so if you want to see all the Oscar® nominees before the pivotal Sunday and watch a spellbinding documentary that morally conflicts in the most therapeutic of ways, please do not miss The Gatekeepers. Here is Joey Magidson’s full review of the film as well.