A Hidden Life Biography

Morality and Faith: A TIFF Review of ‘A Hidden Life’

September 17, 2019Nick Armstrong

Typically, when we think of the phrase "everything happens for a reason", we're divorcing that "everything" from our internal thoughts and actions. And in his latest, A Hidden Life, writer/director Terrence Malick offers a reaffirming thought, which is that your instincts and beliefs were placed with you for a reason as well.

As is typical of Malick's work, this comes through in one of the film's many fleeting lines of dialogue, which tend to leave an imprint on you while the specifics tend to slip your mind. This method of delivery leaves audiences doing a lot of work, but ultimately allows them to come on these ideas on their own, which is not dissimilar from the spiritual experience that Malick attempts to fabricate. It is complicated to view this story of martyrdom — one about a young German man named Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) who refuses to pledge his allegiance to Adolf Hitler — through the terms of faith. This is where it feels as if there could be hints of centrism on the storyteller's part, but in the context of the movie's ending, it feels as though our protagonist is enlightened where others are not.

There are clear visual distinctions between the vast, private home that Franz shares with his family and the tyrannical greys of the towns and jail cells, but A Hidden Life's ending shines a different light on this. The film's intersection of morality and faith is what will ultimately win viewers over, proving itself to be a thoughtful treatise on placing others above oneself.

A Hidden Life makes its Canadian premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 53 min.

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