Profound and Evangelistic: A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick

Author: Kristina Cooper


Profound and Evangelistic: A Hidden Life by Terrence Malick

Watching Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life”, about conscientious objector Franz Jagerstatter, is more like a retreat experience than watching a film, says Kristina Cooper.

I can highly recommend “A Hidden Life” by renowned Hollywood director, Terrence Malick, which is released on 17 January 2020 in selected cinemas.
It tells the inspiring story of Franz Jagerstatter, the Catholic conscientious objector, who refused to sign an oath of allegiance to Hitler.
The film, which is long-at 3 hours, probably too long for some-is more like a retreat experience than watching a film.
 Initially it all seems very idyllic as Franz and his wife play with their children in the meadows. Gradually, though, the tone changes as the Nazi influence begins to affect even their small alpine village-and the evil in the human heart is exposed.
Although the film is slow moving, I felt this was justified, as it helps the viewer to become immersed in the couple's lives, rather than simply telling a story. Shortening it would have made it a different film.
Watch a trailer for "A Hidden Life" here:


Would I Be Brave Enough To Stand Up To Evil?

As one would expect from a Malick film, the cinematography is gorgeous-helped, of course, by the location.
 I found the film enormously challenging, as it made me reflect not just on how I might have reacted in their situation, but in my own life. Am I true to my conscience? If things got ugly in the UK, or in my neighbourhood, would I be brave enough to stand up to evil in its various guises?
The sanctity of Franz and his wife Fanny is very subtly and sensitively done.  This is conveyed through little gestures, rather than dialogue, and the way in which the couple are able to find joy in small things.
I even found myself writing down some of the dialogue, such as the church painter, whom Franz speaks to about his choice, who comments that “Jesus tends to have people who are admirers rather than followers."
Although Franz is the one who was beatified by the Catholic Church, having seen the film, I would say his wife Fanny deserves a similar honour for her witness of fidelity and the sacrifice she paid.
The film conveys a sense not only of beauty, but also of the hardness of farming life in the 1940s, and the physical struggle Fanny had to endure without a man around.

A Call To Conversion

I found it a very profound film, with real spiritual insight, depth and understanding of the gospel message and the role of Christian faith in life. I am sure that Malick did not set out to make an evangelistic film, but it was for me, as the film embodied profound gospel truths.

Through its luminous example of two simple people who choose another way of living, the film is a call to conversion in our culture awash with consumerism, secularism and individualism.
During the story, Franz is told several times that his witness is futile, because his actions won't stop the war and nobody will ever hear about it. His sacrifice will be for nothing, he is told. Yet, almost 70 years later, a film has been made about his life, and his actions are speaking to us!
God has seen to it that Jagerstatter's hidden life has not remained hidden, but has become known to the world to give glory to God.
This is a film that will stay with me for a long time, and I am really pleased that someone of Malick's calibre has seen fit to tackle the story.

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