Entertainment » Movies

A Hidden Life

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Dec 12, 2019
'A Hidden Life'
'A Hidden Life'  

Terrence Malick returns to form with the elegiac and somewhat conventionally told true story "A Hidden Life," about a man staying true to his beliefs even as it means altering the course of his life.

The film centers on Franz (August Diehl), an Austrian farmer, and his lovely wife Franziska "Fanny" (Valerie Pachner). They live a quiet, idyllic life in a stunning mountain town. They spend their days in the wheat fields and their free time with their young daughters, Fanny's sister, and Franz's elderly mother. But Hitler's power is on the rise, and the country is swearing their allegiance to the tyrant — something that doesn't sit right with Franz. When he is recruited to join the armed forces he does so, but he goes through the motions knowing he will be returning home to his family.

But as the war progresses and farmers are once again being called to duty, Franz realizes he cannot swear an oath to Hitler and fight on the side of the Nazis. He knows this will make both he and his family outcasts, but he becomes a conscientious objector anyway. Soon enough he is recruited, but he does not swear allegiance. He is arrested for treason and put in prison. Meanwhile, his faithful but suffering wife stays back at home, ostracized by their small village and longing for the love of her life to return.

At three hours, Malick certainly could have cut 30-45 minutes if he wanted to. That said, the movie moves fairly swiftly thanks to some beautiful editing by Rehman Nizar Ali, Joe Gleason, and Sebastian Jones. Malick is notorious for filming a lot of footage, so the craft at work here is mind boggling. While Malick has his usual meandering cameras and random shots of nature and scenery, here he utilizes his trademarks in a more retrained way. Not to mention, the cinematography by Jörg Widmer ("Tree of Life") is consistently stunning. From the vast landscapes of the Austrian mountaintop village, to the Nazi prisons, the film is jaw-dropping in not only its beauty, but its ability to easily give the audience a sense of its environment. You can practically feel the grass under your feet and smell the freshly-shorn wheat. The dewy days almost drip across your arms as you watch our young lovers reveling in a life they love.

Add to this an elegant and haunting score by James Newton Howard, and you have one of the best films of the year. "A Hidden Life" is more akin to 2005's "The New World," which also utilized Malick's trademark style, but was able to tell a linear story within it. From "The Tree of Life" to his trilogy of relationship-oriented films that played more like extended experimental films (the contemplative "To the Wonder," the introspective beauty of "Knight of Cups," and the interminable "Song to Song"), Malik sort of stopped with the storytelling and focused more on the feelings. Here he does both, and it works like gangbusters.

Malick also does a lovely job with the script. Sure, there are his usual voiceovers, but the dialogue is smart and insightful and brings to the surface the struggle between faith and responsibility. Between doing what is right, and doing what you need to in order to survive — or, at least, for your family to survive. You feel the conflict with Franz. At once he is certain that what is happening in his country is wrong. But he knows by not asserting his loyalty to Hitler, he risks the livelihood of himself and his family. Many times he has the chance to forget his stance and make everything easier for everyone. The heroism comes in that he is stalwart in his beliefs, and it's that resoluteness that will affect more than just himself. It will affect not only his family's lives but those he has not killed or harmed in the war. It will affect his children, who will see that their father was unwavering in what he believed, even at the risk of his own life. And it will show those who doubted him that his stubbornness was the bravest thing anyone could have done.

"A Hidden Life" might not be a movie for everyone, but it's a film that everyone should see. We are in the midst of divided times where sides are being taken and people are losing friends, family, and their livelihoods because of it. If one man can stand firmly in his principles in a much more dangerous time, then we can certainly step back from our Facebook pages and rise up for the things we know and believe to be right.

A Hidden Life

Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.


Runtime :: 174 mins
Release Date :: Feb 07, 2020
Language :: Silent
Country :: Germany


Franz Jägerstätter :: August Diehl
Franziska Jägerstätter :: Valerie Pachner
Resie :: Maria Simon
Vicar Ferdinand Fürthauer :: Tobias Moretti
Judge Lueben :: Bruno Ganz
Herder :: Matthias Schoenaerts
Rosalia :: Karin Neuhäuser
Lorenz Schwaninger :: Ulrich Matthes
Waldland :: Franz Rogowski
Mayor Kraus :: Karl Markovics
Bishop Fliesser :: Michael Nyqvist
Eckinger :: Wolfgang Michael
Trakl - The Miller :: Johannes Krisch
Ohlendorf - The Painter :: Johan Leysen
Major Kiel :: Martin Wuttke


Director :: Terrence Malick
Screenwriter :: Terrence Malick
Producer :: Grant Hill
Producer :: Dario Bergesio
Producer :: Josh Jeter
Producer :: Elisabeth Bentley
Executive Producer :: Marcus Loges
Executive Producer :: Adam Morgan
Executive Producer :: Bill Pohlad
Executive Producer :: Yi Wei
Executive Producer :: Christoph Fisser
Executive Producer :: Henning Molfenter
Executive Producer :: Charlie Woebcken
Cinematographer :: Jörg Widmer
Film Editor :: Rehman Ali
Film Editor :: Joe Gleason
Film Editor :: Sebastian Jones
Original Music :: James Howard
Costume Designer :: Lisy Christl
Casting :: Anja Dihrberg

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.

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