A HIDDEN LIFE – A Review by Cynthia Flores

A HIDDEN LIFE – A Review by Cynthia Flores

You only need to know one thing to want to go see this movie, it’s written and directed by Terrence Malick.  He is not a prolific filmmaker, but his films are always profound and captivating.  And his new movie A Hidden Life is based on real events.  Malik tells the story of an unsung hero named Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl).  He was a quiet man who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.  He saw what his countrymen were up to in basic training and how evil their leader was.  When the  Austrian peasant farmer is faced with the threat of execution for treason, it’s his unwavering faith and his love for his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) and his children that keep his spirit alive.  Even when Franz is told after months of torture and imprisonment that all he has to do is sign the paperwork that says he pledges allegiance to the Fuhrer to be set free, he will not.  Franz pushes it aside saying, “I cannot and may not take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war.”  That is the kind of man this movie exposes to the world.  Franz, who was a solitary witness, died with no expectation that his sacrifice would make any difference to anyone.  He knew that beyond his family and community, his death would go entirely unnoticed and have no impact on the Nazi movement or hasten the end of the war.  He thought he would soon be forgotten.  He wrote while in prison “…who would remember or care about the anti-Nazi gesture of an uneducated farmer?”   Luckily for us, Terrence Malick has put his sizable storytelling skills to work, telling his beautiful story of conviction.

A Hidden Life has lush, mostly natural light cinematography.  This beautiful looking film was done by the director’s favorite cinematographer Jörg Widmer.  He is quoted as saying, “We were prepared to keep the camera gear small.  The lighting gear consisted mostly of bounce boards and blacks.”  The fact that this fantastic looking film was created in such a way is mind-blowing.  The score for the film is from composer James Newton Howard.  He says the director gave him the idea of incorporating sounds that the filmmaker captured during production such as church bells from villages, cow and sheep bells, the sawmill, sounds from the prison, and scythes in the fields.  Howard said, “I took many of those sounds and processed them into musical elements that are woven throughout the score.”  Then Howard’s use of an orchestra to score the film was brilliant in reflecting the vistas of Franz’ village and farmland.  With a solo violin, performed by the violinist James Ehnes, playing throughout the movie that embodies the connection between Franz and Fani.

I could totally nerd out by getting into all the details of how they made the film and compare them to his other movies, but instead, I would urge you to see it on the big screen for yourself.  In A Hidden Life,  a quote by George Eliot is referenced that really captures the heart of the film. “..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in the unvisited tombs.”

I give A Hidden Life an A rating and know it will be a contender come awards season.


Directed by: Terrence Malick

Written by: Terrence Malick

Rated PG-13

Selig Rating A

Running Time: 2hr54min

Biography/ Drama

Limited Release: December 20th  Landmark Magnolia, The Angelika Film Center Plano

Starring: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz


The Selig Rating Scale:

A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

B – Good movie

C – OK movie

D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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