History was made by individuals, not by heroes. That’s the core concept of this movie. George Elliot said it best: ‘For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.’ Instead of taking a look at history through the eyes of a prince or a general, we take a look at the life of an ordinary man.
A Hidden Life takes an unconventional look at the Second World War. We meet Franz Jägerstätter, a German farmer. He is played by August Diehl (“Lyrebird”, “The Birdcatcher”).
He has a wife Fani Jägerstätter, played by Valerie Pachner (“Bad Luck”, “All My Loving”). Together they lead a lovely and simple life, raising their kids and planting their crops. But something is on Franz’ mind: the nature of the war.
Is this war justified? Are the Allied forces really evil, or are they just defending themselves from invaders? His family doesn’t have it easy when the villagers turn on them, but together they persevere. When Franz is at long last called to the army he has to pledge his allegiance to the Third Reich. He refuses, and is imprisoned for it.
Director and writer Terrence Malick (“The Last Planet”, “Knight Of Cups”) did a great job in portraying the gorgeous region. All of the shots of the surroundings and the valley are absolutely beautiful, but they take up a huge amount of time in this 3 hour run time. Sometimes the movie feels like it’s a scene, then a shot of a mountain and then another scene starts. The images of nature seem to only slow down the already not very fast plot.
Do you know the phrase ‘a storm is coming’? It means that trouble is going to come soon. In this movie this sentiment is reflected in the weather and the landscape. When there are moody nature shots and a storm after an intense scene, that’s when I know there will be trouble in the next scene. When it’s done once, that’s good imagery. When it’s done repeatedly, it’s a trope that gets old.
I’d say that the biggest sin of this movie is the voice over. Oh the damn voice over. More often than not the voice you hear isn’t from dialogue, it’s somebody’s inner thoughts. After a while, this gets quite tedious.
Something that in any other movie would be a big deal, is the relationship between protagonist’s wife Fani and his mother Rosalia, played by Karin Neuhäuser (“In The Fade”, “O Beautiful Night”). There is clearly some tension there. Rosalia’s husband died in the war, and she’s scared her son will die as well. Unfortunately, she blames Fani. The movie literally deals with the issue with four lines of dialogue in two separate scenes.
I was very disappointed with how this was handled. You could say, they are not the focus of the story, does it matter? But near the end of the movie, we follow the lives of both Franz and Fani, so the relationship between the mother and the wife should have been explored more thoroughly.
It’s a beautiful movie. The story is an important one, highlighting the life of a true unsung hero. The location is beautifully utilised and August Diehl does a marvellous job at portraying Franz. I just wish it had been an hour shorter. I love long movies, I often clear my schedule so I can watch them. I won’t clear my schedule for this.