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Film / A Hidden Life

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"I can't do what I believe is wrong."

A Hidden Life is a 2019 German-American historical drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick. It stars August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Jürgen Prochnow and Matthias Schoenaerts. Filming was completed in 2016, and the picture marks the last performances of both late actors Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz to be released.

In Nazi Germany during World War II, Austrian conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter (Diehl) is imprisoned after refusing to fight. His unwavering faith and his love for his wife Fani and children keep his spirit alive.

It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019 and was theatrically released on December 13, 2019 in Europe.

Previews: trailer.

A Hidden Life provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Artistic License – History: Franz is offered an alternative of serving in a noncombatant role. He refuses this too. In reality, Franz actually offered to be a combat medic, but this was refused.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Franz is executed over refusing to fight, but he didn't go against his conscience. He was later beatified and recognized as a martyr by the Catholic Church as well.
  • Category Traitor: Franz is accused of being a "traitor to his race" by a staunch believer in Nazism from his village.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Franz is brutalized in prison, beaten and often roughed up by the uncaring guards. It ultimately does little to deter him.
  • During the War: The story is set during World War II.
  • Farm Boy: Franz is seen doing farm work with his wife at their pasture in the Alps.
  • Kangaroo Court: Franz's "trial" from what's seen is a farce, with the chief judge hurling abuse and his own defense counsel standing by mutely, then trying to make him submit. This is of course what most dissidents' trials were like under the Nazi Party.
  • Off with His Head!: Franz and other prisoners are put to death by guillotine.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The German parts are not subtitled.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Franz is pious and extremely devout, going to the church, asking a priest then a bishop for counsel, invoking God and praying. He also studiously refuses to fight for Nazi Germany, resisting even at the cost of his life.
  • Stock Footage: Famous footage from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will is used, showing Adolf Hitler parading in Nuremberg in 1934 with the city's cathedral (the Frauenkirche) in the background.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: There's a scene with SA brown shirts gathering around a campfire, with the "wacky" part being the enthusiastic village mayor who's dancing around the fire, shouting and throwing things in it.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Fani says goodbye to Franz as he's leaving onboard a train.