A Hidden Life
August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Bruno Ganz, Matthias Schoenaerts
New from visionary writer-director Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days from Heaven, The Tree of Life) is this reverent historical epic following a (real) unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
Shot in Malick’s trademark style – layering characters’ searching interior monologues over ecstatic footage of the natural world – A Hidden Life offers somewhat more commitment to narrative realism than his recent works, such as Knight of Cups and Song of Songs, presumably in part due to the specificity and seriousness of Jägerstätter’s (August Diehl) story; and has been hailed a return to form.
In mountainous rural Austria, Jägerstätter tends the land with his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) and delights in their three daughters; a bucolic life full of innocence in contrast to what follows. Called up to fight but repulsed by Nazi ideology, he steadfastly refuses to swear his allegiance to Hitler or otherwise support the war effort and, ostracised by his community, must then face a terrifying fate.
Often recalling Malick’s earlier films including Days of Heaven and his other previous WWII film, The Thin Red Line, A Hidden Life explores the moral and emotional heart of Jägerstätter’s dilemma and the strength of his incorruptible personal faith; as opposed to the fallibility of religion and of humanity at large.