11 November 2019 | Lepidopterous_
Transcendent. A truly spiritual film
"Better to suffer injustice than to do it..."
I don't have many words tonight. A lot of thoughts and emotions. I didn't expect a perfect score from me this year, but I am just floored and overwhelmed by the visual poetry and spiritual magnitude of it all. It feels transcendent. With a beauty that permeates all the way to one's own relationship with God.
Based on true events, A Hidden Life is Malick's most direct exploration of faith since To the Wonder, and perhaps his most fully realized work yet. It is an allegorical story about a man of extraordinary faith. A real-life parable of perseverance and free will. A spiritual journey centered in not just our humanity, but on what it means to truly walk the steps of Christ. And on what it means to choose what we believe is right and just, when we are given every reason not to.
Malick doesn't glorify the central character's ideals or deeds. Rather we focus on the humble threads of love and the storm they weather--and the romantic chemistry is perfect. August Diehl & Valerie Pachner are both exceptional and so incredibly in love. Seconds into the film and you already know it. Pachner gives a particularly moving performance deserving of an Oscar nomination (she is in SF this week doing Q&A's!). Every touch, glance, or embrace between these two is personal, powerful, believable. You can see the stress leave their shoulders each time they first see each other. Sincerity fills the screen as their thoughts, worries, desires, and personal bond resurface in the context of God.
The cinematography is superb, with DP notably credited to Jörg Widmer and not Emmanuel Lubezki. There is a rare seamless quality achieved blending in old footage as well as in choosing to entirely forgo subtitles in a film spoken in equal parts English and German. The music is the best I've heard all year. A beautiful traditional theme by James Newton Howard (Blood Diamond, TDK) with Handel, Dvorak, and other great classical works mixed in.
A Hidden Life is a film that may stay with you for some time. This is quintessential Malick, joining the ranks of The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life. Go in with an open mind and heart, ready for a spiritual experience.