Austin Film Festival 2019 Review: A HIDDEN LIFE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

From writer/director Terrence Malick, comes this beautiful and moving film that not only serves as an antiwar piece, but as a work that derides any form of prejudice and hate. Malick utilizes his artistic sensibilities well to deliver an emotionally affecting and powerful movie that is both timeless and relevant to modern struggles. In doing so Malick delivers his best work as a poetic and philosophical filmmaker since 2011’s Tree of Life.

August Diehl stars as historical conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, a humble farmer and devout Catholic who refused to fight in World War II for the German army and opposed the reign of Hitler’s Third Reich. Married to his love Franziska (Valerie Pachner), Jägerstätter’s only desire was to work on his farm and raise his children while remaining faithful to his religious beliefs. Franz, however, gets drafted into the German army and reluctantly reports to basic training. He eventually gets sent home when the war seems at its end. Things, however, begin to escalate and Franz gets called back into active duty. This time, the fed up Jägerstätter refuses to comply and opposes to swear allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

With his newest movie, Terrence Malick has made a beautifully capitivating and powerful work. The filmmaker has such a wonderful talent for expressing emotions, passion, and turmoil through both images and words. The movie does get a tad long winded and meanders too much at times. Still, this movie is proof positive that the veteran auteur knows how to make an impact when he has such a remarkable story to tell.

All of the cast members perform wonderfully and superbly express the appropriate emotions involved. August Diehl does an incredible job as Franz Jägerstätter. It is definitely a powerful performance that feels natural and real without ever devolving into heavy-handed th theatrical affectations. He shares a beautiful chemistry with co-star Valerie Pachner) who gives a heartrending turn as Franziska. The movie also offers some great work by Michael Nyqvist, Jürgen Prochnow, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz, and Maria Simon.

Though I don’t think this movie will win any best picture accolades for 2019, it is still a gorgeous and emotional example of great art cinema. I know that Malick is a filmmaker of unique vision and one who doesn’t always quite convince audiences to share that vision, However, this is certainly a film that makes a strong case for what he wishes to express with it. It’s impact is surely undeniable despite the movie’s weaknesses.

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