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A Hidden Life (2019) Review

“The Quietest Acts of Resistance are Part of What Save Civilization” – Owen Gleiberman (Variety)

“There’s a difference between the kind of suffering we can’t avoid and a suffering we choose.”

Release Date: December 20th, 2019 (Limited), Home Video: March 17th, 2020.
Length: 2H 54M
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance, War
MPAA: PG

Have you ever watched a trailer for a film and been so encapsulated by everything it was portraying to you? the music, the cinematography, the stories, the characters, the themes, the cinematography (yes I said it twice). Have you then proceeded to watch the trailer 3 more times, and show everyone you can that trailer? that was me 7 months ago it seems when I first saw a trailer for A Hidden Life. Completely incapsulated, completely engrossed and moved, I absolutely couldn’t wait to see this film. It almost became an obsession… I would look daily on the theatre website to figure out if it was playing anywhere near me, after months of checking, it finally got a home video release date. Still couldn’t get my hands on it, so I broke down and rented it on iTunes ($6.99 or buy for 24.99$) and I am pleased to report it was absolutely worth the wait.

A Hidden Life is a Biography, Drama, Romance and War film about An Austrian Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.

Terrence Malick is an enigmatic filmmaker that everyone wants to work with. He makes these incredibly beautiful films with beautiful cinematography. Thats kind of his main schtick and one thing you can be assure of when watching anyone of his works – it will be beautiful. I am not too familiar with his work, but he is a name that has been brought up to me and around me for many years, and after watching A Hidden Life (2019) I would absolutely watch anything he creates. His filmography consists of Badlands (1973), Days Of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), The New World (2005), and The Tree Of Life (2011). Its interesting to see these dates in front of me, because there are some massive gaps in his filmmaking. I feel like when a director doesn’t make a project as often, its a much bigger spectacle when they do, its a big event. “did you see the trailer for the new Terrence Malick movie?” It’s not so much the title of the film, but the title of the director and there are not many directors that get this esteem.

Terrence Malick really knocked it out of the park with A Hidden Life (2019). The story was very well written, the actors did an incredible job especially August Diehl who played our main character Franz Jägerstätter. The way Terrence Malick also directs a film, which I have limited knowledge of and would be interested to see if its true in his other films is how he makes the camerawork and placement feel like the audience is a fly on the wall and we’re another character in his stories. In The Tree Of Life (2011), I felt like I was looking on this family, that I was a character who had no voice and was just looking onto the family, I felt like I was invading their privacy and A Hidden Life (2019), I felt the same way. I felt like I was a ghost of someones past and I was there to witness an event – it makes more a more immersive and personal experience that will be different for everyone who watches it.

A Hidden Life (2019) stars August Diehl as Franz Jäggerstätter, and Valerie Pachner as Fani Jäggerstätter. It also stars mostly European actors from German-speaking countries – Austria, Switzerland and Germany (according to IMdB trivia). Which to me makes its a lot more authentic, the dialogue and the accents are spot on and theres no hokeyness involved – no Brad Pitt’s or Chris Pratt’s or any big name Hollywood actors trying to do a German accent.

August Diehl’s filmography consists of Inglorious Basterds (2009), Salt (2010), and Allied (2016). Diehl is a very interesting looking character, and I think its his defined characteristics that allow him to play these characters. He played the Major in Inglorious Basterds (2009) who noticed that Michael Fassbenders character did not hold up 3 with his fingers “The German way” in the bar and that scene was extremely tense and I felt like there was a great balance between Fassbender’s character and Diehl’s character. In A Hidden Life (2019) however we are presented with a completely different kind of acting. I wasn’t intimidated by Franz, I was on his side, I agreed with him and I wanted him to succeed in his stance. He made you really care about his character and I felt like he just was the perfect actor to play this role. Diehl also had excellent chemistry with Pachner who played his wife. I felt like they were in a relationship and loved each other for years. He was wonderful and a part of me wishes he was nominated for an Oscar for his work.

Valerie Pachner’s filmography consists of nothing I have ever seen before. I am absolutely not familiar with Pachner’s other work, but I thought she did a great job in A Hidden Life (2019). As I stated above, she had excellent chemistry with Diehl and their relationship and her hardships felt genuine and real.

The cinematographer Jörg Widmer absolutely deserves praise for his work on A Hidden Life (2019). Widmer was the cinematographer on many TV movies throughout the years, but to me he cut his way through Hollywood as a camera operator and overseas director of photography. He worked Amelie (2001), V for Vendetta (2005), Babel (2006), Inglorious Basterds (2009), The Tree Of Life (2011), The Monuments Men (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Atomic Blonde (2017), Dark {TV Series} (2017-). He obviously was under good hands and studied well working with all these different directors of photography and cinematographers and was able to create one of the most gorgeous looking films of all time for me. The vistas he was able to capture of film, the mountains, the slow moving fog, the beautiful landscapes – everything was gorgeous and it made me want to visit. I also liked a scene where a prisoner was getting beat up by the guard, but it was all in first person, so the audience couldn’t really look away and as I stated above, you felt like you were there. It just added more nuance to the film that I really appreciated.

The composer James Newton Howard deserves much praise for his work on the film as well. His composer filmography consists of Falling Down (1993), Dave (1993), The Fugitive (1993), Primal Fear (1996), Space Jam (1996), Stir of Echoes (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), Collateral (2004), Batman Begins (2005), Blood Diamond (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Nightcrawler (2014), and Detroit (2017). I found myself a lot this week after watching A Hidden Life (2019) listening to this soundtrack almost everyday, its beautifully haunting music that just takes me back to the film, that puts these beautiful vistas that they were able to capture on screen in my head, and I feel like I’m there again.

I had to let this movie sit with me for almost a week to compile my thoughts and feelings. It hasn’t left my mind since I watched it on Sunday, and if I had the opportunity to watch it again right now I absolutely would, but I’ll hold that special rewatch for when A Hidden Life gets released on the Criterion Collection label (it is absolutely not confirmed yet, but considering that most of Terrence Malick’s films are apart of the Criterion Collection, and the fact that this film didnt get a huge release and is impossible to find in stores or amazon and is too expensive on ebay {50$ last time I checked}). My assumption is that this Malick masterpiece will get released through them as well and I will absolutely buy it day one.

I give A Hidden Life (2019) a 5/5, this is a film that hasn’t left my head and I don’t think will leave my head for a long time. It reminded me why I love films so much, the journeys that we can experience from our living rooms or from the movie theatre. These journeys can take us around the world, and into the lives of people we’ve never met. Once a year, if I am lucky, I find a film that does this to me, that is a reminder of what makes cinema amazing, this fulfills that tall order beautifully. I can’t wait to watch this film again, which is saying something because it is 3 hours long. It has worked its way into the top 3 films of the year for me for 2019.

Until Next Time, Stay Safe!

-Andrew

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