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Posts Tagged ‘Valerie Pachner’

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?”

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