A Hidden Life

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Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

A Hidden Life
"One of the flaws of Malick’s film is that the main character goes into introspective mode, thereby depriving us of any real insight in to his thoughts." | Photo: © Iris Productions

For the first time, the elusive and variable Terrence Malick takes a true-life story for his Cannes Competition entry and tells of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector during the Second World War, who paid the ultimate price for his stance.

Malick takes his usual leisurely approach, providing stunning visuals as well as incorporating black and white newsreel footage from the time as the Fuehrer begins the inexorable rise to power.

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Jägerstätter (August Diehl) and his wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner) and their young daughters, tend a farm high up in the Alps. Franz is called up for military training to which he acquiesces in the mood of the rest of the country but does begin to harbour concerns. The local priest is his confidant who advises him to keep quiet, yet he determines to pursue his conscientious objects to the war and military service.

One of the flaws of Malick’s film is that the main character goes into introspective mode, thereby depriving us of any real insight in to his thoughts. He is equally incommunicative with his family.

The narrative starts to stall at this point. While the viewer hungers for more drama, Jägerstätter seems to drift away from us before he is taken away to a military prison.

His fate is never in doubt as the guillotine looms large for the man who was designated a martyr by Pope Benedict XV1 in 2007. Although Malick is tackling big issues and despite covering a period of time that was such a defining moment in our modern history, the three-hour epic remains curiously lacking in involvement.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2019
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The Austrian Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II.

Director: Terrence Malick

Writer: Terrence Malick

Starring: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Shoenaerts, Jürgen Prochnow, Bruno Ganz

Year: 2019

Runtime: 180 minutes

Country: US, Germany

Festivals:

Cannes 2019

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