LORE ⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Unrated: In subtitled German and English.

Theater: Lagoon

At the beginning of "Lore," an SS officer and his wife hurriedly make a bonfire of official documents. It's April 1945, and Allied forces are barreling toward their estate. Then with a sudden gunshot, Father kills the family dog. For the couple's adolescent daughter, Lore, life as she knows it is over. Stunned by the collapse of the Reich, father flees. Mother hands Lore some cash and her wedding band for barter and orders her to guide her four younger siblings, including an infant, to an aunt's far-distant farmhouse. The abandoned children wander across the ravaged landscape, unsheltered and uncared for.

Adapted from Rachel Seiffert's novel "The Dark Room," the film finds a fascinating new perspective by telling its story of wartime danger and deprivation through the eyes of an adolescent poster child for the Hitler Youth. Saskia Rosendahl is impressive as a girl morally warped by Nazi indoctrination. We admire her grit and ingenuity even as we abhor her moral blindness. When the children cross paths with Thomas (Kai Malina), a fellow refugee with a concentration camp tattoo, she disdains him as an inferior even while relying on his help and feeling attracted to him.

Australian director Cate Shortland takes a riveting, intensely physical approach to the story, with natural vistas and close shots of exhausted faces expressing the physical and emotional havoc of war. It's a harrowing walk through the heart of darkness.

like someone in love ⋆⋆ ½ out of four stars

Unrated: In subtitled Japanese.

Theater: Lagoon.

Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami is impatient with conventional storytelling, preferring enigmatic stories that imply and suggest, skittering out of our grip just as we think we've grasped them. So it goes with his latest, "Like Someone in Love." It obliquely concerns a young Japanese call girl, a retired professor who is her client, and her violently jealous boyfriend. A far cry from his monochrome Iranian dramas, this film is arrestingly beautiful, painting its Tokyo locations with breathtaking clarity of image and crisp colors.

Rin Takanashi plays the prostitute, whom we meet as an off-camera voice in a bustling restaurant. She's misleading her boyfriend about where she is, and soon she's blowing off phone messages from her granny, who has traveled by train to spend the day with her.

Tokyo's nighttime lights flow across the window of the taxi taking her to meet the night's client, an elderly, widowed scholar. Takanashi's expression and the extended, kaleidoscopic light show speak volumes about her turbulent state of mind. The retiree (Tadashi Okuno) is a benign, wistful romantic, and they soon evolve a teacher-student rapport. When her rough-edged fiancé enters the picture the following day, the professor transforms from a reticent bystander into a concerned observer.

The film grants every character a refreshing dimension of humanity. Even the hot-tempered boyfriend (Ryo Kase) reveals a better nature. The ever-so-patient buildup leads to a sudden tragicomic climax. If the overall point of the exercise is a little blurry (it is to me), its other consolations are considerable. From scene to scene the details are never less than engaging. I came away from it as if I had spent an evening contemplating a handsome abstract canvas. I can't explain it to you, exactly, but I found it soothing.