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Hidden Life, A


Stars: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Maria Simon, Ulrich Matthes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz, Michael Nyqvist, Sophie Rois

Director: Terrence Malick

Yet another true story, this time about an Austrian conscientious objector in WW2. Franz (Diehl) is a farmer and bellringer, married to the deeply religious Fani (Pachner); their country life in the shadow of the snow-capped mountains is hard but still idyllic.

But it's 1939 and Franz is soon to undergo a period of training at the local barracks; he hopes that as a farmer he won't actually be called up.

However, his dislike of Hitler, pacifist ideals and declining to give the 'Heil' salute soon ostracise him from his fellow villagers. The mayor berates him at length, and it is admittedly most unwise of Franz to refuse to give money to the war effort.

Called up, his views soon land him in a military prison. These prison scenes do go on a bit (even though they're intercut with Fani's struggles back home to keep the farm going) and this is where one becomes conscious of the film's great length.

All attempts to free Franz fail. "I cannot do what I think is wrong' Franz tells a judge (the great Ganz in his final film role) at his ultimate trial.

The film does demand patience, but the cinematography by Jorg Widner is out of this world - crisp, clear work with every shot carefully composed. Whatever you might think of the film's other highs and lows, it is certainly one of the most beautifully photographed you will see this year.

The acting is solid enough, with English being spoken almost throughout by the Austro-German cast.

David Quinlan

USA/Germany 2019. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour (unspecified).
174 minutes. Some scenes in widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 13 Jan 2020