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A Hidden Life

Like in his very first film, the lyrical BADLANDS (1973), A HIDDEN LIFE is also modeled after a true story. Franz Jägerstettet was an Austrian conscientious objector in World War II. When he was drafted, he refused the oath of allegiance to Hitler.

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The Trump era has produced its fair share of politically charged films; from fashy action trash (DEATH WISH, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD) to gleefully racist cop dramas (DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE), not to mention edgelord/incel nonsense (JOKER, CUCK), it’s shocking how many artists have embraced neo-fascist ideals and aesthetics. Apart from a few feminist pieces like ASSASSINATION NATION and RIOT GIRLS, it’s downright depressing how few have made outwardly antifascist statements. Although Terence Malick’s latest masterpiece A HIDDEN LIFE was in development long before Trump and other current far-right leaders took office, it’s impossible not to view the film as an urgent statement on recent global politics.

Based on true events, Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) and his wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner) enjoy a peaceful existence in the mountainside town of St. Radegund. “It seemed no trouble could reach our valley. We lived above the clouds,” muses Franziska in the voice-over. This idyllic life comes to an end as Nazism slowly infects their town, and Franz’s refusal to swear an oath to the Third Reich turns the couple into immediate social pariahs. A lack of support from the local mayor and pastor worsens Franz’s inner crisis, and he’s soon thrown in jail for his defiance.

For viewers with a real investment in the fight against far-right politics, and those who’d rather lay down and die than join up with the enemy, A HIDDEN LIFE will provide an emotionally overwhelming experience that speaks directly to their inner core. A three-hour pleading prayer that forces us to examine our own commitment to the cause, it begs that we never, ever budge an inch in the face of tyrannical overlords who promote ethno-nationalism. The message pierces and stings long after the credits roll: all the beauty the world has to offer…the most majestic chunk of land, the most loving family, and even life itself… it’s all worth giving up in the name of resisting fascist governments.

Jared Abbott

Credits

Original title: A Hidden Life
USA 2019, 173 min
Language: English, German, Italian
Genre: Drama, Biography
Director: Terrence Malick
Author: Terrence Malick
DOP: Jörg Widmer
Montage: Rehman Nizar Ali, Sebastian Jones
Music: James Newton Howard
Distributor: Pandora
Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, August Diehl, Bruno Ganz, Michael Nyqvist, Martin Wuttke, Tobias Moretti
FSK: 12
Release: 30.01.2020

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