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'Lore' features an unusual and absorbing heroine

'Lore' overdoes its symbolism at times, but actress Saskia Rosendahl as the titular character is impressively expressive.

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Actress Saskia Rosendahl (center) stars in 'Lore.'

Courtesy of Music Box Films

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Hannelore (nicknamed Lore) Dressler is a German teenager entrusted with guiding her younger siblings to safety in the immediate aftermath of World War II. What makes her such an unusual heroine is that she has also entirely absorbed the poisonous attitudes of her parents – her SS father, Peter (Hans-Jochen Wagner), and her mother, Asti (Ursina Lardi), who mourns Hitler’s demise.

“Lore,” directed and co-written by Australian Cate Shortland and based on Rachel Seiffert’s 2001 novel “The Dark Room,” doesn’t attempt to soften Lore or engineer some vast change of heart. She remains ambiguous throughout: both an abomination and a hero to her brood.

Her trek to the relative safety of her grandmother’s house some 500 miles away in Hamburg begins when her father returns to the front (presumably to be shot) and her mother turns herself in to Allied forces. Taking whatever cash and jewelry she can cobble together, Lore spirits her siblings – younger sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twins Jürgen (Mika Seidel) and Günter (André Frid), and baby brother Peter – through a harrowing landscape peopled with blasted bands of fleeing fellow citizens. Corpses dot the terrain.

The mostly American Allied soldiers, though not the monsters the Germans were anticipating, are of scant use to Lore in her attempts to secure safe passage. Instead, she finds a guardian, of sorts, in Thomas (Kai-Peter Malina), a young man with Jewish identity papers who at first trails them and then acts as a kind of protector.

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