United States  

Celebrating 10 Years of Trusted News Discovery
One News Page
> >

‘A Hidden Life’ Film Review: Is This Where Terrence Malick Gets His Mojo Back?

The Wrap Sunday, 19 May 2019
‘A Hidden Life’ Film Review: Is This Where Terrence Malick Gets His Mojo Back?The key word in all the advance talk about Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” has been linear. The film, which premiered on Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival, was supposed to mark the reclusive but prolific director’s return to script-based filmmaking after years spent working in an improvisational, ruminative style; it was billed as Malick telling a story again rather than Malick indulging in his occasionally glorious, occasionally perplexing flights of fancy.

Of course, linear is a relative term when it comes to Terrence Malick. “A Hidden Life” is anchored in story in a way the director’s last few films have not been, but its storytelling rhythms are quintessentially his, with all the beauty and all the languor that that entails.

Based on the true story of an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for Nazi Germany in World War II, “A Hidden Life” is certainly the director’s best movie since his 2011 Palme d’Or winner “The Tree of Life” — it’s his most monumental film since then, and perhaps his most sentimental film ever. And it is also slow and meditative, requiring viewers to sink into and surrender to that particular Malick style that some find maddening.

*Also Read:* 'Too Old to Die Young' Review: Miles Teller Embraces Slow Nihilism in Nicolas Winding Refn Series

It may well be seen as the movie where Malick gets his mojo back, though that would be an unfair characterization of a man who has remained a fascinating filmmaker over the eight curious years since “The Tree of Life.” He’s made more movies in that stretch than any similar period of his career, but gotten less acclaim for them. After creating a meditative, rapturous template with “Tree of Life” — improvisation-based, full of whispered asides and fragments of conversation — he went all the way down that rabbit hole with “To the Wonder” and “Knight of Cups,” with increasingly frustrating results for those who want more than gorgeous images and narrative conundrums.

But “Voyage of Time,” his 2016 “documentary” on, essentially, the creation of the universe, was both ravishing and richly ruminative, particularly in the extended, Cate Blanchett-narrated version rather than the shorter, Brad Pitt-narrated “Malick for kids” IMAX version. The following year’s “Song to Song” went back to the earlier template, but the music provided a narrative spine that produced one of his most satisfying recent films, even if it fell well short of the grandeur of “Tree of Life.”

And now comes “A Hidden Life,” which lets us know we’re in Terrence Malick territory from the start. There’s a black screen, the sounds of nature — wind, running water — and a soft voiceover: “I thought that we could build our nest high up in the trees,” a male voice says. “Fly away like birds.” We see shots of bucolic vistas high in the Austrian Alps, and then the choral grandeur of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” comes in to make it crystal clear whose movie this is.

*Also Read:* 'Rocketman' Film Review: Elton John Gets a Musical Fantasy That Sometimes Achieves Liftoff

But there is a strong narrative here, and it’s the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer from the small village of Ragegund. When Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Jägerstätter reported for military duty but refused to swear the required oath to Adolf Hitler or to fight in what he considered an unjust war. He was imprisoned, sentenced to death and executed in the summer of 1943; his sentence was nullified by a Berlin court in 1997, and he was declared a martyr and beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2007.

But those later developments aren’t covered in the film, and Malick isn’t one to use end-credit updates, even in movies based on real events. Instead, “A Hidden Life” sinks into a few years of Jägerstätter’s life, from 1938 until his death. The first half of the three-hour film is pastoral and languid, exploring the relationship between Jägerstätter (August Diehl) and his wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner) in a style that will be familiar to Malick aficionados: glances, snippets of conversations, playful moments in the long grass and occasional voiceovers.

But the talk is less fragmentary than in the past few Malick films. Seeing the rising influence of the Nazis, including some vitriolic anti-immigrant talk from the town’s mayor, Jägerstätter consults a bishop about the idea of refusing to serve, arguing, “We’re killing innocent people, invading other countries.” But the clergyman, perhaps mindful of who’s in charge, is unmoved: “You have a duty to the fatherland,” he says. “The church tells you so.”

*Also Read:* 'Vivarium' Review: Jesse Eisenberg Satire Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

There is real majesty in Malick’s images here, whether they’re images of beauty or of a growing mania and darkness. “Is this year the end of the world?” an older villager asks at one point. “Is it the death of light?”

Malick drops in flashes of historical footage that suggest things might have been heading for just that, but mostly he sticks to his particular style of cinematic poetry — even when the film moves into its darker and grittier second half, when Jägerstätter is imprisoned and we cut between his days in jail and his wife’s struggle to survive in a village that has ostracized her.

This stretch becomes an extended crisis of conscience, as person after person entreats Jägerstätter to take the loyalty oath and accept a non-combat job. The appeal is the same: How will this change anything, and who are you helping by doing this?

The answer for Jägerstätter is clear: I’m helping me live with myself. His position never changes, and this section of the film is where the deliberate discursive rhythms of Malick’s storytelling can be wearying. This is also where the film becomes most reliant on voiceover, with the story carried along by the reading of letters between Jägerstätter and his wife.

*Also Read:* 16 of Cannes' Hottest Directors, From Pedro Almodóvar to Céline Sciamma (Exclusive Photos)

In this stretch, Franziska is in many ways as central a character as her husband, with Pachner and Diehl well matched; they’re why the film feels as sentimental as anything Malick has done (which, whatever the implications of the word sentimental, is not a complaint). James Newton Howard’s score is appropriately grand — though as usual for Malick, it’s abetted by the extensive use of existing classical music, from Bach and Beethoven and Handel to Henry Gorecki, Arvo Pärt and Alfred Schnittke.

As a World War II story, “A Hidden Life” has none of the visceral nature of Malick’s “The Thin Red Line,” but it’s not meant to. This is part love story, part tragedy and part meditation on faith and conscience — and it’s wholly Malick in a way that is closer to “The New World” and “The Tree of Life” than his films since then.

It’s frustrating at times but beautiful far more often, a substantial addition to a singular filmography.

*Related stories from TheWrap:*

Sharon Waxman and Steve Pond Reflect on 10 Years of TheWrap, and 10 Years of Cannes (Video)

Jim Jarmusch's 'The Dead Don't Die' Splits Cannes Audience: 'Winningly Eccentric' or 'Invasion of Clichés'

10 Best Cannes Films of the Last 10 Years, From 'Melancholia' to 'Amour' (Photos)
Credit: Wochit Entertainment - Published < > Embed
News video: Antonio Banderas Explains How A Heart Attack Changed His Life

Antonio Banderas Explains How A Heart Attack Changed His Life 00:32

Antonio Banderas suffered a heart attack two years ago and he said it pushed him towards a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, he said the event allowed him to reinvent himself as an actor. According to Reuters, Banderas said he stopped smoking and exercises more than before. The actor recently worked...

You Might Like

Other recent news and videos in Movies: Motion Picture Awards

Movies: Motion Picture Awards News
Apple Plans To Release 6 New Movies Per Year With Hopes To Win Oscars
Kevin Costner talks Season 2 of "Yellowstone" and why he avoids using stuntmen when he can
Justin Timberlake wooed Jessica Biel like a true Southern gentleman [Video]Justin Timberlake wooed Jessica Biel like a true Southern gentleman

How did Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel become one of Hollywood's hottest married couples? Justin's southern charm may have worked on Jessica, but the couple had their share of ups and downs on the..

Credit: Page Six     Duration: 01:35Published

Fast & Furious Animated Series Announced By Netflix [Video]Fast & Furious Animated Series Announced By Netflix

DreamWorks and Netflix announced the development of the new series on Thursday morning at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France.

Credit: Rumble     Duration: 00:52Published

Other recent news and videos in Movies: Movie Reviews

Movies: Movie Reviews News
Movie Review: 'The Souvenir'
Aladdin (2019) Review - YMS [Video]Aladdin (2019) Review - YMS

Aladdin (2019) Review - YMS movie review

Credit: Rumble     Duration: 07:55Published

Action News Now Movie Review: Men in Black: International [Video]Action News Now Movie Review: Men in Black: International

Find out what our favorite film critic thought of the big movie release this week.

Credit: KHSLPublished

Recent related videos from verified sources

Secret Life of a Lifelong Supermodel [Video]Secret Life of a Lifelong Supermodel

We take a behind-the-scenes look at the life of ’90s supermodel Daniela Peštová — how she got her start and how she’s busier than ever today. Follow along as she prepares for the Karlovy Vary..

Credit: Allure     Duration: 04:02Published

'Dark Phoenix' and 'Pets 2' Both Underperform During Disappointing Box Office Weekend [Video]'Dark Phoenix' and 'Pets 2' Both Underperform During Disappointing Box Office Weekend

'Dark Phoenix' and 'Pets 2' Both Underperform During Disappointing Box Office Weekend 'Dark Phoenix' earned $33 million at the domestic box office, the lowest debut for an 'X-Men' film ever. 'The..

Credit: Wibbitz Top Stories     Duration: 01:25Published

A Hidden Life Movie Clip - August Diehl, Valerie Pachner [Video]A Hidden Life Movie Clip - August Diehl, Valerie Pachner

A Hidden Life Movie Clip - August Diehl, Valerie Pachner Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life new clip official from Cannes. Starring August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist

Credit: Teaser-Trailer.com     Duration: 01:04Published

Kevin Hart on parenting message in new film: It's the letting go factor [Video]Kevin Hart on parenting message in new film: It's the letting go factor

Actor Kevin Hart discusses the letting go factor when it comes to parenting and how it appears in his new film, The Secret Life Of Pets 2, with co-star Eric Stonestreet. Release date May 24.

Credit: PA - Press Association STUDIO     Duration: 01:14Published

Evangeline Lilly Has Her Next Movie Lined Up [Video]Evangeline Lilly Has Her Next Movie Lined Up

Cannes will see a comedy featuring this actress.

Credit: Celebrity Wire     Duration: 01:04Published

Irwin Winkler Gets Deep On The Duties Of A Producer [Video]Irwin Winkler Gets Deep On The Duties Of A Producer

Irwin Winkler, author of the book, "A Life in Movies," talks about what a producer has to do to really get a movie off the ground and also speaks on his long and extremely successful career in film and..

Credit: AOL Build VOD     Duration: 01:15Published

Other recent news in US

GLORIA VANDERBILT: US fashion icon and heiress dies aged 951 killed, 7 injured in Philadelphia GRADUATION PARTY shooting
5 things you need to know Monday: HONG KONG, Raptors, OJ Simpson, Taylor Swift and 'MIB'US Open: Gary WOODLAND holds off Brooks Koepka to win first major
Environmentally friendly: One News Page is hosted on servers powered solely by renewable energy
© 2019 One News Page Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
About us  |  Contact us  |  Disclaimer  |  Press Room  |  Terms & Conditions  |  Content Accreditation
 RSS  |  News for my Website  |  Free news search widget  |  In the News  |  DMCA / Content Removal  |  Privacy & Data Protection Policy
How are we doing? FeedbackSend us your feedback  |   LIKE us on Facebook   FOLLOW us on Twitter  •  FOLLOW us on Pinterest
One News® is a registered trademark of One News Page Ltd.