BEV Chats to Lore Actor Saskia Rosendahl
After kick-starting the careers of Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and Sam Worthington (Avatar) with her feature film debut Somersault (2004), writer/director Cate Shortland returns with this adaptation of Rachel Seiffert’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel The Dark Room. Lore introduces an array of fresh acting talent, headed by newcomer Saskia Rosendahl, whose subtle embodiment of a teenager on the brink of discovery instantly marks her as a powerful young actor to watch out for.
Set immediately after the fall of Nazi Germany, the film follows Lore (Rosendahl) and her four young siblings after their parents are taken by allied forces. Displaying a set of disturbing values drilled down by her parents and the Hitler Youth, Lore is tasked with transporting her remaining family members to the safety of their grandmother’s house. After reluctantly accepting the assistance of a young Jewish man (Kai Malina), Lore is confronted with an alternative to Nazi propaganda and begins to question her parent’s activities during the war, the Nazi regime and the very foundations of her ill-conceived belief system.
BEVer Sonia Zadurian chatted with Saskia about researching her role, key improvisations and the added pressure of such grave subject matter.
How did you go about researching your role?
We had two weeks of rehearsals before we started shooting. I came into this project just a few days before rehearsals started, so I didn’t have the time to prepare on my own. I talked to Cate a lot. We met every day and went through every scene. We rehearsed every weekend for the next week and we were improvising a lot so that we could put our own ideas into this character to develop her. I watched documentaries, I read the novel and another book which Cate gave me. We were singing songs and dancing and stuff like that.
Did anything that you improvised make it into the film?
Yes. There were quite a few things. My work with Cate was really based on trust because she didn’t know what we were saying, especially in the improvisations. For example, in the scene with the river man, we had an acting coach who was with us the whole time. In the rehearsal, she was my river man and we just ran briefly through the scene, so we didn’t know the text, just the situation. Cate said that she didn’t want me to have an easy time in this scene, but that I had to do whatever to get what Lore wants. Then I sang a song that was actually not planned but is now in the finished film.
The subject matter of the film is obviously extremely sensitive. Did you feel any added pressure on this film to do the character and story justice?
I felt a lot of pressure, but I actually gave myself most of this pressure. I wanted to make Cate happy and make myself happy, which was even more difficult. It was also maybe because it’s our history and it’s part of our country. Even though it’s not that far away, I can’t imagine being in that time. The distance and differences between my life and Lore’s are so big that it was a great challenge to try to feel this time period – that was a big pressure as well.
A lot of the key scenes in the film have very little dialogue. Was there a particular scene that was more difficult to shoot because of this?
I didn’t feel that only having a little dialogue was difficult. For example, the scene where Thomas wants to leave them had more dialogue than any other scene, but that was more difficult, because when you don’t have dialogue you just have to try and feel everything. So that was good for me. Of course there were scenes that were more difficult than others, but not really because of dialogue. The hardest scene for me was the very serious scene with Lore’s mother. That was full on because Ursina, who played Lore’s mother, was so into her character that made me try to protect myself in a way. Also the scene where Thomas leaves them, that was difficult too because I had to just break down completely.
Lore’s relationship with her family is obviously a key part of the story. How did you work with the children playing your siblings?
We had two weeks of rehearsals before the nine week shoot. The rehearsals were really helpful because we got to know each other and we spent all our free time together making trips to swimming pools, etc. We were always in the same hotel, so we were together all the time. There was a really intense feeling of being together and part of a project that made us feel very close to each other; like a family.
What advice would you give to women just starting out in film, in front of or behind the camera?
A big part of it is really about luck. The other part is about staying strong and not taking everything personally. When you choose your actors it’s about so much more than just you and you have to just stay strong and be as open as possible.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
I did two others after Lore. Two weeks ago I finished a thriller with a French director. It was really different experience to the one I had on Lore with Cate.
After being presented in Official Competition at the 56th BFI London Film Festival, Lore will be screening as part of the 16th UK Jewish Film Festival on 10th November. Tickets for the festival are now on sale. For programme and booking details, or to watch the trailer, head here.