Rob McFarland discussed the International Cinema film Lore and what it means to remember and learn from the harsh realities of the past.
PROVO, Utah (March 17, 2015)—When we travel and tour in Europe, we often marvel at the majestic cities and rich landscape, but if we are not attentive, “we could miss the fact that this is . . . not only a landscape of joy and beauty and the miraculous inventions and ideas of the last centuries but also a place of sadness, of suffering,” said Rob McFarland from the Department of German and Russian.
Discussing the International Cinema film Lore, McFarland addressed the suffering that took place in Europe during and after World War II as Germans and Austrians struggled to make sense of the madness of the Holocaust. “This was the site of unbelievable suffering. That’s not what this film is about, and yet it’s all that this film is about,” he said.
The realization of the horrors of the past haunts modern-day Germany. In German there is a single twenty-five-letter word, vergangenheitsbewältigung, which means, “to come to grips with the past,” and McFarland referenced new campaigns and policies that are an attempt to do just that.
“Of course, one of the hardest things that they’ve had to do was deal with the Holocaust and their past atrocities,” McFarland said. “They’re trying to do it in a way that allows it to be done ethically, emotionally and so that people can somehow talk about it.”
The tragedy and immorality of the Holocaust is obvious, McFarland said: The Germans were the perpetrators of one of the worst crimes in the history of the world. “Innocent people died at their hands, and that’s morally very, very clear,” he explained. “The moral responsibility of that lies with the German government to make that accessible to everyone.”
However, McFarland went on, “while there’s nothing more horrible and difficult than the Holocaust, there’s something that’s a little more difficult for the German government to deal with.” What is not so clear, according to McFarland, is how they ought to deal with the suffering of Germans. Even though Germans were the perpetrators, McFarland said: “Unfortunately there has arisen since 1945 a cult of German and Austrian victimhood, and that is the entire topic of this film: What is the moral responsibility of the Germans?”
The film takes place in southwestern Germany immediately after the Second World War, and it follows five siblings, abandoned by their Nazi parents, who are traveling 900 kilometers to their grandmother’s house.
McFarland set a few at ease by forewarning: “The baby is fine at the end of the film – I just wanted to let you know because it’s a really precarious thing carrying a baby through a warzone. But the baby makes it.”
McFarland encouraged viewers to notice how the director uses the camera and tilts the audience. “Often we’re shown things upside down or from the side,” he said. “We’re never given these long, establishing shots that let us know where we are in the world and how things are going. It’s always very close up; we’re as disoriented in time and space as the kids are.”
The film touches on the inclination humanity has to smooth over events and circumstances that people don’t want to bring up anymore. Referring to the film’s main character, McFarland said, “That’s how she wants it at first, too, but going through the harrowing things that she does, it’s burned in her soul that there are things that are really not the way that they look. There are things that need to be remembered, and how we remember them is very important.”
According to McFarland, this is an important film regarding how we remember and how we look at what people went through: “It should not be read as being about how the poor Germans or the poor, little Nazis suffered. That’s not what it’s about. It’s a film about the universal problem of suffering and remembering, and Germany now is trying to deal with this very problem.”
It’s a complex problem without an easy answer, said McFarland, and the film – though heartbreaking, raw and emotional – is not horrific or manipulative.
McFarland said, “It will hopefully help us understand what we need to remember in our own pasts that might not be so beautiful.”
To learn more about the International Cinema, visit their website.
—Danielle Chelom Leavitt (B.A. Russian ’15)