Friday, May 29, 2020

A Hidden Life, 2019 - ★★★★½

I normally do not like Terrence Malick films. I hated A Thin Red Line and usually the plodding pacing of his narratives bores me to tears. I decided to give Malick another try earlier this month as I streamed the 4K version of A Hidden Life. Not knowing much about the plot (an Austrian farmer and devout Catholic refuses to fight for the Nazis in WWII) I jumped in with an open mind. What I witnessed over the nearly three hours of runtime was eye-opening.

Malick and his cinematographer Jorg Widmer have produced the single most beautifully shot film I've ever seen. Yes, there are better crafted films by other talented cinematographers (1917 with Roger Deakins is the most recent example), but I've never seen anything like the visuals in this movie. Malick is able to show a simple Austrian village and shoot it in true grand splendor. Rolling hills give way to vast mountainous vistas. There are some jaw-dropping "nature-porn" elements to this film that remind you of how much natural beauty there is on this planet. It's truly an example of taking a perfect filming location and letting it shine on its own. The detail of the village shown vividly in 4K is breathtaking to witness.

August Diehl plays the lead role of Franz Jagerstatter while Valerie Pachner plays his wife Franziska. Both actors give solid, realistic performances. Malick's story here is straight-forward and makes you think about the consequences of war. The contrast of the war-torn prisons that Franz is confined to are brilliantly balanced against the pristine farmland visuals.

This movie won't be for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it and still think about it nearly a month after I saw it. James Newton Howard provides an amazing score that lifts the visuals off the screen even further. Simply put, this is a film that MUST be seen on a large TV in 4K. I can't overstate how beautiful this movie looks.