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Yasmeen Mamdouh
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A Hidden Life: Will it Leave its Mark?‎

Photo by Reiner Bajo – © 2019 Studio Babelsberg | Fox Searchlight Pictures – via

While many films try to leave their mark on its viewers’ consciousness, only a handful succeed at leaving you contemplating life. Will A Hidden Life leave you immersed in profound ponderings, or mourning a missed hit?

Set during WWII, A Hidden Life follows Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), an Austrian farmer living with his loving wife, Fani (Valerie Pachner), and their three young daughters in an isolated village in the mountains. However, their happy life changes completely when Franz refuses to take the allegiance oath to Hitler, that all Austrian men are forced to take upon enlisting. His refusal does not only mean being evicted from the village but also facing prison and even death. From a peaceful, happy life, to traumatic jail time, and maybe death, how long can Franz hold on?

The core plot is rather simple; a guy’s set of morals are put to the test. However, the three-hour feature tackles more significant themes; such as a man’s relationship with God, disobedience of evil, and the human soul. Most of these themes are introduced and delved into in the second half; for an hour and a half, you will probably be thinking why in the world Franz would refuse to take the oath, and why it is taking so long to get anywhere?


The first question is answered very explicitly with Franz and Fani’s voiceovers, as they read out their letters to each other, the second one, on the other hand, isn’t. Director Terrence Malick is known for his dreamy features that are not exactly straight-line shooters. A Hidden Life is his longest one yet, and it is definitely in the clouds, with many beautiful landscapes in the high, green mountains, and a strong spiritual aura. The problem is that the longer the film takes to tell the story, the quicker most audiences tend to lose interest and disengage with the spiritual and mental connection that Malick is aiming for. There are a lot of nature scenes and interaction scenes, and while some are of significance, many could very easily be sacrificed for the priceless aim of getting to the audience and keeping them transfixed.

For the acting, August Diehl was a compelling Franz, whether it was with the ‘family man’ aspect of the role, or his persistence against pressure. Diehl’s performance could have been more powerful had the film not been stretched out for so long, and meandered into unnecessary digressions. Valerie Pachner’s performance was also powerful, with a realistic take on the character of a strong woman.

A Hidden Life tackles very relevant and compelling themes, but, unfortunately, its long run time and thinly stretched plot, make capturing its audience very hard.


Like This? Try

Dark Waters (2019), Just Mercy (2019), and Waves (2019).

360 Tip

The cast features only European actors mostly from the German-speaking countries Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

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