SAVFF REVIEW — “A Hidden Life”
Terry’s back baby!
A Hidden Life is written and directed by Terrence Malick and stars August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, and Bruno Ganz. It tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer and devout Catholic who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. Next in our series of SCAD Savannah Film Festival reviews is A Hidden Life. Terrence Malick is oftentimes more interesting than the films he makes. I’m a big fan of a lot of his work, but his recent efforts really haven’t been for me. That being said, A Hidden Life really looked like a return to form for Terry. So is it? Hell yeah, it is. A Hidden Life is a beautiful, emotionally charged story 90-minute movie trapped inside a 3-hour epic.
Terrence Malik is writing and directing here and he does a great job. A Hidden Life is just as sweeping and philosophical as you’d hope and is packed to the brim with nature shots and visual storytelling but, Malik really shoots himself in the foot here. This just really has no reason being as long as it is. Now, I’m usually not one to complain about a longer runtime, quite the contrary. I love a good 3-hour epic as much as the next cinephile, but if you’re gonna give us a 3-hour movie, it has to be necessary. I genuinely have no idea why anyone let this be 3-hours long, as much of the story could have been told in 90 minutes easily. So much of this film is just nature shots or repeated sequences and it really works against the film. If I were to guess, most of this film is silent nature shots, and while that may be what Malik wanted for this film, it really makes for a frustrating viewing experience. There’s so much to love here, I just wish it was a shorter edit.
All the cast does phenomenal work here. August Diehl and Valerie Pachner are able to give incredibly emotional and genuine performances even despite the fact that they each have maybe a page of dialogue. Much of their performances exist in the way they look at each other and the world they inhabit. While on the surface, the film presents itself as a film about moral conviction and the broad and far-reaching implications of the decisions you make, it more so ends up being about a love of the world you live in. A Hidden Life spends most of its time establishing relationships, whether it be between the characters, the environments or the audience. Malik spends most of his time getting us familiar with every aspect of these people’s lives. It’s a very personal and intimate viewing experience and these actors do a great job pulling us in.
On a technical level, A Hidden Life is expectedly masterful. Once again Terrence Malik has delivered a visually stunning film and his style works wonders here. The score is sweeping and touching and works wonderfully in the film. Like I said earlier, there is so much to love here, it’s just trapped in this 3-hour body. A Hidden Life is a masterclass in filmmaking and visual storytelling, but a cautionary tale in editing. 3/5