In south-west Germany, during the aftermath of World War II, five destitute siblings must travel 900 km (560 mi) to their grandmother's home by the Bay of Husum near Hamburg after their high-level Nazi parents disappear in the face of certain arrest by Allied Forces. Along the way, they encounter a variety of other Germans, some of whom are helpful while others are antagonistic. Eventually they meet up with a young man who has been pretending to be Thomas, a young Jewish concentration camp survivor, who joins their group and becomes their unofficial guardian.
The return of the Nazi officer father towards the end of World War II upsets the family household in Southern Germany. They pack in a rush, kill the family dog and flee their stately home to hide-out in a secluded cabin in a clearing in the woods in the Black Forest. Lore's mother carefully wraps a porcelain figurine of a deer to take with them.
Lore's father leaves for destinations unknown and with the news of the death of Adolf Hitler, her mother is aware of the fact she will be arrested too and goes off to a camp voluntarily, abandoning her five children and leaving Lore in charge with instructions to go to her grandmother Omi's house in Husum near Hamburg. Before leaving, Lore's mother gives her all of her jewellery and some money for the train tickets. After the neighbors are no longer willing to sell them any food, Günther is caught stealing so Lore decides it's time to leave. Unfortunately the trains are no longer running so they have to leave all their belongings behind and start their journey on foot.
The children arrive at the ruins of an abandoned house and Lore discovers the dead body of a woman. She goes into the house to look for her brother Günther and stumbles upon a young man sleeping. The next day they arrive at a church and Lore pays a woman to breast-feed her baby brother Peter. They again run into the young man from the day before. News and photos of the atrocities committed at the Nazi concentration camps are posted on a wall in the center of the nearby village for all to see. Lore looks at the photos intently and recognizes her father in Nazi officer's uniform.
That evening, they move on to stay the night in a school. They encounter the same young man on his own who later makes a sexual advance on Lore but is rebuffed. The next day he follows them out of the town as they continue on their journey. Arriving at a farm, Lore gives a gold bracelet and her mother's gold ring to an old woman in exchange for food. Lore finds the body of a dead man who shot himself and steals his watch. The old woman begs Lore to leave the baby behind so others will give them food but she refuses and they leave.
While walking, Lore again runs into the same man. She keeps on walking and he follows them. A truck with American soldiers drives up and stops. When asked for identification, the young man says his name is "Thomas" and shows the soldiers his Jewish identification papers and says he is Lore's brother. We see he has a serial number from a concentration camp tattooed on the inside of his forearm. The Americans give them a lift. The next day Lore falls ill and Thomas provides food for all of them. While bathing, Liesel questions why Lore doesn't like Thomas. Later Lore approaches Thomas, takes his hand and has him fondle her. When he lays his head against her legs she pushes him away.
The following day while walking in the forest, Lore buries the picture of her father and the picture of him at the concentration camp. They continue walking and reach a river they cannot cross. Thomas offers to go across with Peter. Lore says he'll go across and leave the rest of them. Lore goes down a hill and finds a man with a row-boat. She asks him for help but he is not interested. She then sees Thomas on the road behind the man, so she allows the man to make sexual advances on her to distract him. Thomas hits the man over the head with a rock and kills him. Lore is visibly shaken. They take the man's boat and cross the river but while climbing the river bank Lore is guilt-stricken and backs into the river with Peter in her arms. Thomas pulls them both out and takes Peter from Lore's arms and hands him to Liesel.
Upon reaching the British sector, they are denied passage and must remain in the Russian sector. Lore asks Thomas if he told the soldiers what they did and he pulls her back from the guards. They decide they will cross into the British sector at night so they can catch one of the trains that are running there. After walking at night in the forest they pitch camp. When they smell somebody cooking, Thomas tells them to stay put and goes off to investigate. A restless Günther sees a man returning and believing it to be Thomas, runs towards him but is shot and killed by Russians. Thomas then threatens he will leave them behind unless they keep moving on with him.
During an argument with Lore, Thomas says he can't help them any more and that they can take the train and reach their destination safely. Lore is afraid he will leave them and in her anger and frustration calls him a filthy Jew. She cries and breaks down, so he decides to stay. They manage to board a train but are stopped by soldiers that ask for their papers. Thomas finds he is missing his wallet with his identity papers so he steps off the train to avoid getting caught.
During the final leg of the trip along the muddy tidal plains of the western coast of the Jutland Peninsula, Jürgen confesses that he actually stole Thomas' wallet so he wouldn't abandon them and that the papers weren't his anyway, but belonged to someone else called Thomas Weil, who Thomas had been impersonating.
The four remaining siblings finally arrive at Omi's house. She takes them in, feeds them and lectures them to not ever be ashamed of their parents. She mistakes Jürgen for Günther, and they tell her Günther died in the Russian sector.
Lore goes to her bedroom, which was her mother's when she was a child, and places her mother's porcelain figurine of the deer on the dresser, next to a collection of similar figurines.
Lore finds it difficult to adjust and refuses to cheerfully dance to American music with Liesel in the kitchen. She goes for a walk in the woods and looks at the identity papers and family pictures of Thomas Weil in Thomas's wallet.
Back at the house, they are sitting at the dining table when Jürgen impulsively grabs a piece of bread. Omi scolds him for not waiting to be served by the housekeeper and asks him whether he has ever learned anything at all. Lore is angered by her grandmother's authoritarianism so, siding with her brother, she also grabs a piece of bread without asking, bites into it and intentionally knocks over her glass of milk, pushes the milk off the table into the palm of her hand and drinks the milk. Omi excuses her from the table. Lore goes back to her room, throws the porcelain figurines off the dresser onto the floor and crushes them one by one with her heel.Saskia Rosendahl as Lore
Kai Malina as Thomas
Nele Trebs as Liesel
Ursina Lardi as Mutti (the mother)
Hans-Jochen Wagner as Vati (the father)
André Frid as Günther
Mika Seidel as Jürgen
Eva-Maria Hagen as Omi (the grandmother)
Nick Holaschke as Peter
Sven Pippig as Bauer
Philip Wiegratz as Helmut
The producer Paul Welsh, secured the film rights to Rachel Seiffert's novel very early and asked Robin Mukherjee to write an adaptation for the cinema. When the director Cate Shortland joined the project she re-wrote part of the screenplay to make it fit her way of working. At a later stage, it was agreed that most of the dialogue should be in German, which delayed the production for a year and forced one of the British funding institutions to back out, as its rules didn't allow backing of non-English language films.
The film was first shown at the Sydney Film Festival on 9 June 2012, followed by the Festival del film Locarno on 2 August, where it won the Piazza Grande audience award, the Prix du public UBS. It was then shown at a large number of film festivals around the world. At the Stockholm International Film Festival, in November, the film was awarded four awards, including the Bronze Horse for best film. It was selected as the Australian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist.
It was released on cinema in Australia on 20 September 2012, in Germany on 1 November 2012, and in France, Belgium, United Kingdom and Ireland in February 2013, when it also saw a limited release in the United States.
Lisa Schwarzbaum, reviewer for Entertainment Weekly, gave the film a B+ and wrote, "This striking, slow-building drama from Cate Shortland (Somersault) uses fractured, impressionistic imagery as a mirror of moral dislocation as the children make their way through an unfamiliar landscape. If everything Lore (Saskia Rosendahl, capturing teen-girl sullenness) has been taught is wrong—about Hitler, about Jews, about the glory of her Vaterland, she might as well be walking on the moon."
Shane Danielsen of SBS awarded the film four stars out of five, commenting that "Beautiful, it may be, but it is by no means a bourgeois film...it is a rebuke to notions of middle-class propriety, as well as a formidable work in its own right."
Lore received the Feature Film Production of the Year Award at the 2013 Screen Producers Australia Awards. Lore also received the bronze award for Outstanding Feature Film at the German Film Awards. Lore has also received 17 other awards internationally.