A Hidden Life (2019)
Dir. Terrence Malick
One of the best filmmakers of modern American cinema who has slowly lost touch with audiences after embarking on a long-gestating experimental period who needed a win. This plot line is exactly where Terrence Malick found himself after the finale of his experimental feature trilogy, “Song to Song.” Bombing with critics and audiences, he retreaed, and finally wrote a cohesive script with narrative finally taking center stage again and thus, “A Hidden Life” was born. Despite his films never feeling like they fit within the current social zeitgeist, Malick’s latest feels unfortunately relevant within society. Franz Jägerstätter was an Austrian farmer in St. Radegund when World War II broke out, and soon he is taken away from his family for military training but eventually returns. The problem Jägerstätter has with serving is swearing allegiance to Hitler, he won’t.
This is the catalyst for Malick’s exploration of love, a concept that he has been obsessed with. Paternal, romantic, if it involves the L-word Malick will want to explore it. The breakdown of a marriage has been shown (“Days of Heaven,” “The Tree of Life,” “To the Wonder”), but instead Malick studies the way Franziska Jägerstätter handles her husbands incarceration and the outcasts that her and her family have become because of Franz. For most of the film we see their marriage during a very tumultuous time and in doing so we see how time can break down a marriage naturally, even communicating through letters is not the same as actually speaking to one another. Both are being killed by the actions of one, but somehow they support and love each other throughout. The actions he does don’t just affect him physically and mentally, others suffer and its because of the time we spend with the Jägerstätter family. The emotion and character depth comes first, a return to form for Malick who made his name on character and emotion. “A Hidden Life” is a film that not all will watch until the end, but the cathedral that Malick creates in the environment of St. Radegund with respect and reverence will leave a lasting impression, which is what we as cinephiles hope all of Malick’s films do.