A Hidden Life  Review: Terrence Malick’s Finest In Ages
A welcome return to form for Terrence Malick, A Hidden Life finds the esteemed auteur employing a linear, plot-driven script in ages to bring the life story of Franz Jägerstätter on screen, and is a much better & more transparent effort with a functioning narrative & interesting characters. An ethereal, graceful & transcendent experience that's also surprisingly relevant, Terrence Malick's latest is a cinematic gem that impresses on both technical & storytelling fronts.
After spending an entire decade experimenting with ideas & feelings in his abstract works, all of which were filmed without a screenplay, Terrence Malick at last returns to a more familiar territory with A Hidden Life, for his latest is his first film in ages to employ a linear, plot-driven narrative structure and is inarguably his best one since The Tree of Life.
A Hidden Life is the story of one man who refused to discard his beliefs & stood for what’s right even in the face of certain death, finding his strength in his unwavering faith and the love & support of his wife as he earns the scorn of the Nazis while his family is ostracised by the villagers. Much of the voiceover here relays the contents of letters written by these characters, which in turn also advances the plot.
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Shot in gorgeous locations & capturing the pristine beauty of its surroundings in an exquisite & intimate fashion, the film transports us to a paradise untainted by man’s destructive nature, and each frame of it is as spellbinding to look at as it is soothing in touch. Its 178 minutes runtime might seem intimidating but it is paced with such serenity that the narrative flow is smoother than all of the filmmaker’s recent works.
August Diehl plays Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, the real-life devout Catholic & conscientious objector during World War II who was incarcerated & executed for undermining military actions. And Diehl’s performance articulates his determination & steadfast convictions with emotional precision. Valerie Pachner takes the role of his wife and renders her with sincerity. The film also marks the final appearance of Bruno Ganz & Michael Nyqvist, and they both chip in with fine work.