A Hidden Life
Lasting for 2 hours and 45 minutes, writer/director Terrence Malick once again finds a way to let a movie’s length rob the film of its dramatic importance.
This is an intriguing film that unfortunately beats both the lead actor and audience to death. Saved with some stunning cinematography of various beautiful sections of the Austrian landscape, Mr. Malick tells the story of a happily married Austrian farmer with three small daughters who pays the ultimate price for refusing to declare loyalty to Adolf Hitler in 1942.
August Deihl plays Franz Jägerstätter, the Austrian farmer who will not violate his conscience. He lives a quiet little life with this wife Franziska as they plow, plant and harvest a field of hay along with tending their small group of cows. Clearly in love with one another, their hard work is always done with a smile on their face as they take the time to play with their three darling girls.
Playing Franziska, Valerie Pachner matches Mr. Deihl’s performance, and she has to stand strong when her husband’s opposition to Hitler results in harassment from neighbors after he is arrested and deported to a prison. While she wants her husband back in her arms, she recognizes that he cannot sacrifice his honor in order to return to their home.
Let me again mention the weakness of this film, namely that it focuses far too long on our Austrian couple laboring in the fields as well as his stay in prison. While the couple’s relationship is extraordinarily warm, you reach the point where you wish that Mr. Malick had shortened the length of this film to no more than 2 hours.
That includes Franz’s incarceration where he is left in a cold cell for months while enduring agony both from beatings and being away from his family. In other words, you find yourself feeling that you were locked up with him.
But the movie had a hidden strength, namely to force the viewer to wonder what he or she would do if put in the same position. In other words, if you were a Hispanic immigrant facing deportation if you didn’t declare your loyalty in writing to President Donald Trump, what would you choose to do to stay in the United States with your spouse and family?