After a decade spent, more or less, in the wilderness of avant-garde filmmaking (To the Wonder anyone?), director-writer Terrence Malick has returned to more conventional filmmaking with his latest effort, A Hidden Life. Now bear in mind that when I use the word conventional and Terrence Malick in the same sentence I use the former word loosely. Nevertheless, Malick’s latest is, I guess, what one would call a stab at a faith based film and it beats the majority of them hands down. At least when you’re in the hands of an old pro like Malick you know the production values and attention to technical detail is going to be top notch and so it is. And that’s not something you can say with most films in the so-called faith based film genre. For what it’s worth, I recently learned that Malick is a born again Christian so maybe that explains the 76 year old director’s decision to tackle the subject matter at hand which he does so adeptly.
The story, taking place against the backdrop of WWII, is based on a true incident. It’s the tale of Franz Jagerstatter, a farmer, husband and father and not necessarily in that order. He finds himself recruited to fight in the German army during the Nazi regime but is unwilling to compromise his principles and be a willing participant in the killing of innocent people. This, of course, leads to all sorts of grief for Jagerstatter and his family which make up the bulk of the film’s last act.
Malick’s filmmaking is as visually sumptuous as ever and the film’s story is as accessible as you’re likely to get from the ever-mysterious filmmaker. It’s a tad overlong but there’s so much to embrace I say why quibble? This is one Hidden Life worth seeking out.
A Hidden Life is currently playing at Regal Manor Twin in Charlotte.
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