World News

A Hidden Life

December 11, 2019

A Hidden Life (2019) – Decent Films
Decent Films

A+ SDG Original source: National Catholic Register
The human body, in the anthropology of Pope St. John Paul II, reveals the human person’s vocation to love, to gift of self. This applies, the Pope says, even to the representation of the human body in art. (The topic of art and the body is addressed in a number of the “theology of the body” audiences.)
That may be true — for those with eyes to see. Those with different eyes may see other things.

Directed by Terrence Malick. August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tobias Moretti, Bruno Ganz, Michael Nyqvist, Ulrich Matthes. Fox Searchlight.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value
+4

Age Appropriateness
Teens & Up*

MPAA Rating
PG-13

Caveat Spectator
Violence and menace; thematic content.

Few people, carrying scarecrow-like straw dummies at a military base, would playfully hold one over another for an imaginary kiss. Yet the dummies are representations of the human body — and, while they bear only the rudest resemblance to the real thing, there is a non-accidental emotional implication to their form and function.
To charge another human being and drive the point of a bayonet into human flesh requires, typically, a process of desensitizing. Trainees are meant to look at a straw dummy and see an enemy to be killed. But how can one see that when he has already seen in that dummy a fellow human being made for love?
An ecstatic, anguished three-hour cinematic hymn, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life sings the life and death of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter in asymmetrical binary form, in contrasting theologies — theology and anti-theology — of the body.
Among our first glimpses of Franz (August Diehl) and his wife, Fani (Austrian actress Valerie Pachner), are their hands and knees side by side in the soil of their farm in the village of St. Radegund in Upper Austria, covering potatoes with earth, hands and arms working together, almost as one body.
This means that, like his celebrated The Tree of Life and The New World, among others, A Hidden Life is another reworking of Malick’s signature theme of paradise lost. But such a paradise, and such a loss!
An Austrian conscientious objector executed in 1943 for refusing the soldier’s oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, Jägerstätter was declared a martyr and beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
The central conflict evokes such dramas of conscience and martyrdom as A Man for All Seasons and Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Like More, Jägerstätter’s essential dilemma was that he would not swear an oath contrary to his beliefs. (As a prisoner we see him vainly urged, as the imprisoned More was urged by his daughter Meg, to say the words of the oath while thinking otherwise in his heart.) And, like Scholl, Jägerstätter was a devout Christian whose resistance to the Nazi horror resulted in his execution by guillotine in 1943.
Yet A Man for All Seasons and Sophie Scholl are cerebral dramas of dueling words, focused from the outset on their moral conflicts. A Hidden Life is a visually lyrical ode to bodies and the worlds they inhabit.

Tags: History, Malickian, Religious Themes, Saints & Beati, War

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