The True Fatherland

"Terrence Malick has written and directed a testament to the human soul, demonstrating the power of God, truth, love and the call made on one man to rise above tyranny. A Hidden Life depicts the real martyrdom of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to take a loyalty oath to Adolf Hitler and was executed in 1943. This is the most concrete, realistic, and least abstract film of Malick’s since The Thin Red Line (1998). Unlike much of his previous work, there is regular dialogue, turning points, conflicts, character arcs, resolution, in short something that works within the bounds of conventional film-making. Malick devotees scoff at such judgments, but while norms in a craft can be transcended, they cannot be entirely ignored. Malick’s trademark voice-overs, and his characters in dialogue but seemingly speaking to the viewer, work masterfully in this film. They drive the film forward. More than this, the film is searing, exposing everything it touches: Nazism, mass murder, a corrupted legal system, a fearful Church, the goodness, ignorance, and hatred of human community, and the intoxication of evil. There is also mercy and sacrifice, but seemingly smaller and of little weight against the balance of forces that Franz and his wife, Franziska “Fani” (Valerie Pachner) face."