Based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, Terrence Malick’s latest film, A Hidden Life, is another thought-provoking experience.

The great thinker’s new movie makes us question the role of our own individual choices in what is happening in the world around us and whether following our morals is even good for anything. 

Played by German actor August Diehl (Inglorious Basterds), Jägerstätter is a farmer from a small rural village in the Austrian Alps. 

There he lives with his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) and their three daughters. Refusing to alter his principles under the oppression of the Nazi regime, Franz begins to channel the wrath of the entire village but grows worried his actions will have repercussions on all of them. 

The family, initially, sustains losing friends and distancing family members. However, in 1943, Franz is drafted to fight in the German Army after completing his military training.

August Diehl and Valerie Pachner in A Hidden Life
August Diehl and Valerie Pachner in A Hidden Life C: Studio Babelsberg

Fani is left alone, dealing with an angry mob and fearing for her husband’s life as he refuses to take the oath of loyalty to the Führer.

A Hidden Life carries Malick’s unmistakable footprint; with his characteristic jump cuts and only essential dialogue in very intimate exchanges on display here.

The entire film is extremely sensory. It feels like a series of fragmented images, like a memory or a dream that you struggle to recall.

Everything that is superfluous is gone and everything that remains is tied to the deepest of emotions. 

Valerie Pachner in A Hidden Life
Valerie Pachner in A Hidden Life C: Studio Babelsberg

At the three hours long, A Hidden Life is not the easiest watch, though it gets more entertaining as the stakes get higher, from thugs in a small village to prison guards in Berlin. 

The film could have probably done without all the times we are shown just how nice Franz is, whether it is helping a lady with her luggage on a train, replacing an umbrella the person before him knocked off the shelf in a shop or sharing his bread with the other inmates. 

A Hidden Life challenges us to think whether marching to the beat of one’s own drum will ever be loud enough to make a difference. 

Franz was a man that did not know much about what is beyond the limits of his own fields. He lived a simple and happy life, doing the best he could with his own free will. 

Seventy-seven years on, Malick has given this quiet, unassuming, yet heroic man’s story its purpose.

Verdict: ★★★★