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Posts Tagged ‘August Diehl’

August Diehl, Valerie Pachner

“A HIDDEN LIFE” My rating: B+

173 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Spirituality is not something the movies do particularly well.  After all, it’s a visual medium; the inner workings of the heart are not easily captured by the camera.

Leave it to Terrence Malick, the most idiosyncratic American filmmaker ever, to find a way to put a human soul on the movie screen.

In “A Hidden Life” Malick explores the true story of Franz Jaggerstatter, an Austrian farmer who at the height of World War II decided he could not take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler and so spent the rest of his days in a series of grim Nazi prisons.

Jaggerstatter’s story is, unlike most recent Malick films (the magnificent “Tree of Life” and the irritating “To the Wonder”) a fairly linear one.  But the Texas-based auteur brings to the table his trademark eye-of-God perspective, so that while “A Hidden Life” unfolds in more or less chronological order, it’s filled with visual and aural digressions.

The results are heartbreaking, moving and inspiring.

Malick opens his film with footage of Adolf Hitler from Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda documentary “Triumph of the Will.”

We then meet Franz (sublimely underplayed by August Diehl) and his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) swinging scythes in a blindingly green field overseen by rugged alpine crags.  A towering church steeple is always in the background, a reminder not only that Franz is a volunteer sexton (he’s the village bell ringer) but that he takes his religion very seriously.

In a series of interlocking scenes, some only seconds long and dealt like cards from a Tarot deck, we get a sense of life in this tyrolean paradise, Franz and Fani’s courtship, and the life they have built together on a drop-dead beautiful mountainside with three daughters.

It’s a world centered on home, family, farm and village. And it’s almost too beautiful and peaceful for words.

But there are intimations of things going on in the larger world. Fani freezes as an unseen plane passes overhead. Franz has furtive conversations with fellow villagers who share his anti-Nazi sentiments. The mayor (Karl Markovics) when in his cups lets fly with rants about inferior races.

Franz takes his concerns to the local priest (Tobias Moratti), who is sympathetic but advises him to shut up and do what’s asked of him: “You’ll almost surely be shot. Your sacrifice will benefit no one.”

Not even a session with the area bishop (Michael Nyqvist) provides a satisfactory answer to Franz’ heartfelt query: “If our leaders are not good, if they’re evil, what does one do?”

(more…)

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Vicky Krieps, August Diehl, Stefan Konarske

“THE YOUNG KARL MARX” My rating: C+

118 minutes | No MPAA rating

Few things are as noncinematic as a bunch of intellectuals arguing economic theory — which puts the makers of “The Young Karl Marx” on the defensive from the get-go.

Their solution is a sort of mutation on “Shakespeare in Love” in which Marx and his cohort Friedrich Engels rail at the status quo while outrunning the police and creditors, finding time to vigorously roger their ladyfolk. Along the way they establish the international Communist movement and get to work writing Capital.

Raoul Peck’s film (his last outing was the excellent James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro”) begins in the early 1840s with unfortunate peasants being routed by cudgel-waving horsemen for having the effrontery to pick  up fallen tree limbs for firewood on a private estate.

Then we cut to young Marx (August Diehl) arguing with the writers and editors of their recently-banned newspaper; he criticizes his colleagues both for intellectual laziness and for a lack of resolve in opposing the establishment. (The film finds  Marx often insufferably arrogant…but he’s arrogant because he’s right.)

The scene ends with the entire newspaper staff hauled off to prison.

Meanwhile in Manchester England Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske) is appalled at the inhuman conditions imposed by his father on workers at the family’s textile mill. When the proles protest by damaging a loom, Engels Pere fumes that “Machines are expensive…not like labor.”  His son leaves in disgust.

“The Young Karl Marx” is about how these two giants of economic reasoning got together, discovering their shared styles and common interests.  We also meet Marx’s wife Jenny (Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day Lewis’ love interest in “Phantom Thread”), a member of the French aristocracy who gave it all up for love and the workers of the world.  Then there’s Engel’s squeeze Mary (Hannah Steele), an Irish factory lass who takes no guff from anyone.

There are, of course, endless discussions of Marxist theory.  Some of these get heated when the talk turns to the boys’  sincere belief in  violent revolution.

“The Young Karl Marx” is about as well acted as it can be…it’s just that it plays more like a history lesson than a viable drama.  Good production values, though…even if most of what we see are gloomy garrets, dirty factory floors and dimly-lit taverns.

| Robert W. Butler

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