One man’s stand against tyranny

August Diehl in A Hidden Life (Studio Babelsberg/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Reiner Bajo)

Based on real events, A Hidden Life tells the story of a courageous man who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. The film focuses on his attempts to respect life – and his conscience – in terrible times. Source: ACOFB.

The movie was rated among the top ten Independent movies of 2019 by the National Board of Review, and was awarded the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The title of the film comes from the final sentence of George Eliot’s historical novel, Middlemarch.

The film is the story of the spiritual faith of a devout Catholic Austrian farmer, and his personal commitment to justice.

Franz Jagerstatter (August Diehl) farms his land in the Austrian village of St Radegund, as World War II breaks out. He is married to Franziska (Valerie Pachner), who he loves deeply, and they are a valued and respected couple in the rural community.

Franz is called up to military training and he is separated from his wife and children for some months. He is sent back from training when it looks as if the war will end, but the war continues, and Franz and other men in the village are summoned to fight on the battlefield.

The men are asked to swear allegiance to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Franz refuses and villagers, critical (and fearful) of his stance, ostracise him and his family and behave to them inhumanely.

As one has come to expect from the movies of Terrence Malick, this film has outstanding cinematography that sweeps the viewer from the pastoral beauty of the landscapes, mountains and farmlands of Europe to grim, dark spaces. Every scene in the film could be framed.

It is a beautiful movie to look at and is an outstanding enactment of the force of religious faith, sacrifice and personal conviction. Jagerstatter was a modest but resolute man of faith whose beliefs about life and humanity were immovable, despite attempts by others to shake them.

This is not a film that focuses sternly on moral judgements about the issues it presents. Rather, it uses its story and its images to raise questions, inviting the viewer to contemplate them further. In what way, for example, can one acquire the strength to bear the anguish of loved ones for the moral decisions one feels must be made? And, most important of all, what actions help us best to refuse to yield to the evil dictates of others? The film handles these and other weighty issues in a human, Christian way, and not by offering dogmatically delivered, moral prescriptions.

A Hidden Life: Starring August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, and Tobias Moretti. Also, Matthias Schoenaerts, Maria Simon, and Karen Neuhauser. Directed by Terrence Malick. Rated PG (Mild themes and violence). 174 min.

FULL REVIEW

A Hidden Life (ACOFB)

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