A HIDDEN LIFE – Review by Susan Granger

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Auteur filmmaker Terrence Malick chronicles the true story of Franz Jagerstatter (1907-1943), a devoutly Roman Catholic farmer who was imprisoned, sentenced to death and executed for refusing to fight for the Nazis after Hitler invaded Austria in World War II.

Told through poetic letters between Jagerstatter (August Diehl) and his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner), it begins with a black screen and the outdoor sounds of nature, as Franz says, “I thought we could build our nest high up in the trees…Fly away like birds.”

Content in each other’s company, Franz and Fani live with their young daughters in the small Alpine village of St. Rageund. When he was conscripted for military service in 1938, Franz felt the Nazi cause was unjust.

“We’re killing innocent people and invading other countries,” he explained to his parish priest (Tobias Moretti) and, subsequently, Bishop Fliesser of Linz (Michael Nyqvist)…only to be told: “You have a duty to the fatherland. The church tells you so.”

Nevertheless, highly-principled Franz declined the required loyalty oath to Adolf Hitler and suffered the consequences, as did his wife, whom the villagers subsequently ostracized.

Although Franz Jagerstatter’s sentence was nullified by a Berlin court in 1997 and he was declared a martyr, even beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, that’s not part of writer/director Malick’s contemplative narrative, not even in the end-credits.

While Malick has not publicly promoted this film, August Diehl points to the rise of the Far Right in the United States and in Europe, noting: “If it’s about our society, it’s about how a person who says ‘no’ is getting more rare…Maybe this movie is not only political but personal…possibly everyone is jumping on a train going in the wrong direction.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, A Hidden Life is a slow, somber, visually sumptuous 7, a timely meditation on faith and conscience.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.