A Hidden Life is the latest tone poem from Terrence Malick, and it’s also his best movie in years. While it still maintains the sprawling style Malick has leaned heavily on in the latter half of his career, it also has a very clear narrative throughline – something many of his modern movies have lacked. The film is inspired by the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis – a decision which cost him dearly. In an exclusive A Hidden Life clip below, Franz’s wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner) writes the imprisoned man a letter. That may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but Malick makes it altogether beautiful.
A Hidden Life Clip
I’m a huge fan of Terrence Malick, but I have to admit that his last few films, staring with To the Wonder, and continuing with Knight of Cups and Song to Song, have been a bit disappointing. After The New World (my personal favorite Malick), the director all but abandoned traditional narratives. While his first post-New World film, The Tree of Life, managed to make this approach work beautifully, everything following it has suffered a bit.
So I’m thrilled to say that A Hidden Life, Malick’s latest, is a must-see, and one of the best films of the year. It still has the poetic, otherworldly, narration-heavy approach Malick loves, but it also contains a clear narrative – and an important one, too. The story is more timely than ever – that of a person standing up to do what’s right, even if it means putting himself in danger.
In the film, Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) “faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.” Like most Malick films, A Hidden Life was shot in a very loose manner, with the filmmaker essentially finding the finished film in the edit following a two-year post-production process. “No one knows what it is going to be,” co-star Franz Rogowski said during that post-production time. “It has been two and a half years since production. I’m not sure. It might finish tomorrow, it might take another two years of post-production. No one knows. He doesn’t feel the pressure. I think he works with several editors who make different versions. He’s a director who creates spaces rather than produces scenes; his editing style is like that. A bit like music. He needs the time that he needs.”
A Hidden Life opens December 13.
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