A Hidden Life

A Hidden Life (2019)
★★★ / ★★★★

I walked away from Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” thinking there is a better movie yet to be made about Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a farmer who refuses to pledge loyalty to Adolf Hitler and fight for Nazi Germany. Based on his religion and morality, which the material treats, quite astutely, as two separate ideas, Hitler’s actions are evil and the war is occurring for all the wrong reasons. I admired its intention to tell Jägerstätter’s story and I do hope more stories of conscientious objectors during World War II garner more attention and be put on celluloid. However, at times Malick’s penchant for poetic shots of the sky, meadows, streams, and longing faces (cue the ever-present spiritual score) takes away tension and raw emotions instead of amplifying them. A handful of techniques, especially when man relates to nature, are taken right off Malick’s superior works “Days of Heaven” and “The Tree of Life.” What results is a work with a running time of nearly three hours—completely unnecessary because a. the provided content is stretched to the point of repetition and b. it will likely repel most viewers from seeing the picture. Isn’t the point to bring Jägerstätter’s story to a wider audience? Still, I appreciated learning about Jägerstätter not only as an anti-Nazi figure but as a humble man, devoted husband, and father of three girls. He is not a man of words, but Diehl portrays him as a person with deep thoughts, possessing an understanding of what it means to be a man of faith. Inspired by the book “Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison” by Erna Putz.

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