A Hidden Life
Stars: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Matthias Schoenaerts
Malick returns to the WW2 period of ‘The Thin Red Line’ to chronicle the real life story of an Austrian conscientious objector. Franz Jagerstatter (Diehl) is a devout young farmer living in a high altitude Alpine paradise with his doughty and beautiful wife Franziska (Pachner) and their young daughters. When called up for army training by the Nazi regime, he initially acquiesces, while harboring misgivings about the troubling political trajectory of his country. Voicing his doubts to the local priest on returning to the village, he is told that refusing to fight would be a pointless exercise. Nevertheless he refuses to serve, well aware that this is punishable by execution. While this is potentially rich dramatic material, the stoic Franz remains an elusive and reticent figure untroubled by pangs of doubt. Malick also adopts the annoyingly middlebrow and dated practice of having its German actors speaking in heavily-accented English. And while there’s no denying Malick’s sincerity or seriousness of purpose, the film is narratively inert, making for a very long three hours, and finds the director falling back into his familiar, almost self-parodic trademark tics: the banal poetic voiceovers and numerous shots of attractive folk gambolling in the bucolic idyll. The tedium is broken only occasionally by all too brief appearances by such esteemed presences as Matthias Schoenaerts and ‘Transit’s’ Franz Rogowski.