The sins of the father and the mother are visited upon the children in ways none of them could imagine in "Lore," which opens in spring 1945 as the German resistance is collapsing.
Other than coping with the absence of their SS officer dad, teenager Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) and her siblings -- an infant brother, mischievous twin boys and a younger sister -- have been largely untouched by the ravages and realities of war.
That is about to change when their father shoots the family dog and hustles everyone away to a remote farmhouse. They can run but they cannot hide, and when both parents disappear, it's up to Lore, just 14, to try to keep her siblings alive, fed, safe and on the path to their grandmother's 500 miles away.
She starts the journey as a staunch Hitler supporter and ends it as something entirely different, a young woman hardened by loss, physical hardship and deprivation, realizations about the "truth" according to the Fuhrer, dependence on a stranger (Kai Malina) she loathes and desires, and the potentially soul-crushing price of freedom.
"Lore," directed and co-written by Cate Shortland, is based on the novel "The Dark Room" by Rachel Seiffert, the daughter of a German mother and an Australian father. The author was inspired by family stories, particularly her mother's experiences as a girl raised in a Nazi household.
It's rare that a movie dealing with such weighty topics relies so heavily on young children (with the baby often crying on or off cue) but the unsentimental "Lore" pulls it off, thanks in part to Ms. Rosendahl in her second feature film role.
She seems like a cross between a young Scarlett Johansson and Michelle Williams, moving from innocence and obedience to bewilderment and unspoken rage. It's no accident that some fragile treasures are symbolically smashed; like the past and the family, they can never be made whole again.
In German with English subtitles. No MPAA rating but R in nature for violence, sex, nudity and adult subject matter. Opens today at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill.
"Leonie" uses the tools (or crutches) of narration and a story that jumps in time and place with identifiers at the bottom of the screen to compress three dramatic decades into 102 minutes.
The result, while introducing an exceptional woman, seems abridged, as though the movie needed another 30 minutes to more fully tell the story of Leonie Gilmour (Emily Mortimer, here cast against type).
She was editor and ladylove to Japanese poet Yone Noguchi (Shido Nakamura) and unwed mother of their son, sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, one of the most important artists of the 20th century.
Leonie's intellectual curiosity is matched by her feminist stripes, and in 1901, she answers a classified ad from the poet, who is looking for a manuscript editor in New York, and guides him to further success.
But when she becomes pregnant, he angrily bolts. "He seems a bird that flew away from my window. I might never meet him again," she tells her best friend (Christina Hendricks).
Leonie does meet him again, but only after traveling to California to reunite with her equally independent mother (Mary Kay Place), giving birth and sailing to Japan with her 3-year-old so he can meet his father. Unable to speak Japanese at first, she makes a place for herself in society and strays beyond the strictures even more before returning to the States.
"Leonie," based on the biography "The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey Without Borders," boasts some beautiful shots, with California particularly golden and parts of Japan verdant. While tracing Leonie's encouragement of Isamu -- "There are no boundaries for an artist. No borders. Through art you can lead a magnificent life" -- her story remains sanitized and shortened.
Too often she seems a supporting player in her own life, and you wonder how she endured the selfishness of the poet she once loved or turn-of-the-century attitudes about gender, race and the typical woman's role of the times. It's far too delicate for such a fascinating, wild-spirited woman.
PG-13 for brief sexuality, partial nudity and brief language. Plays today, Saturday and Sunday at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.