A new trailer dropped this past Tuesday for the highly anticipated release of Terrence Malick’s ninth film A Hidden Life.

The legendary director of filmic masterpieces like The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life is this time bringing to life to story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian contentious objector and a Catholic who refused to serve in the German army and was executed by the Nazis. For this he was declared a martyr by the Catholic church.

The film received immense praise during its brief run in the film festival circuit and is set for a December 13th release where it’s likely to be an Oscar contender. As a fan of film, I’m extremely excited for the movie with some reservations.

At the moment, it’s extremely difficult to produce a film about anything regarding Nazism without the director falling into Trump-Derangement-Syndrome. On its face, it’s possible the film could become an annoying cudgel for the left to beat the right with yet again with long essays about the topicality of one man’s stand against the rising “Nazis.”

At a time when the far-left is advocating for BDS against Israel and when Democrat congresswomen like Ilhan Omar use anti-Semitic dog whistles to criticize AIPAC, it’s mildly hypocritically to claim the right is the only side of the aisle worth scrutinizing as “Nazis”.

Film is always influenced by the culture that surrounds it and it speaks to zeitgeist that it’s formed in. This is why Hollywood, the most progressive place in the country outside of Yale, is producing so many movies now about racism and Nazism.

When one of the most important directors in cinematic history is releasing a hotly anticipated Oscar contending movie about one man’s resistance against the rise of Nazism, it’s worth taking a second look at.

Is A Hidden Life Terrence Malick’s ode to the resistance and Antifa? Nobody knows for sure. The infamously reserved director hasn’t given a public interview since the 1970s. If he is mad about Trump he isn’t likely going to speak publicly about it.

Generally his films are more concerned with headier, existential conflicts above the riff raff of contemporary politics. He’s a quasi-religious poet, not a pundit. It’s easy to assume the movie is more interested in the internal struggle of its central character’s faith than it is in Trump.

Regardless, film is a medium defined by its place in the moment. When directors make films like Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water or The Hateful Eight, they aren’t just excoriating our ancestors for their failures. They’re trying to highlight perceived modern issues.

In the trailer one of the quotes we hear says,

“What’s happened to our country? We’re killing innocent people, raiding other countries, preying on the weak. If our leaders, if they’re evil, what does one do?”

Owen Gleiberman, a critic for Variety who caught the film at the Cannes Film Festival, wrote:

“In tracing Franz’s journey, Malick has told a story of a dialogue with God that is also a drama of the most searing and deliberate topicality. It says: If we don’t have people who can draw that line in the sand, by doing it within their own hearts, then our civilization will not stand.”

Considering Mr. Gleiberman’s quote shows up in the trailer, it’s fair to say the film’s distributors agreed with his analysis.

In light of recent positive media portrayals of Antifa, AOC declaring that the US is operating concentration camps on the border with Mexico and the subsequent terrorist attack against an ICE facility, it’s hard not to argue that arguments about common people’s “resistance” aren’t in some way justifying leftist political violence.

At the same time though I’m not overly concerned about this film. Taken out of context, there’s certainly nothing wrong with giving the Nazi’s another well deserved wallop. The film’s central conflict as portrayed by the trailers suggests the central conflict of the film is man’s inner responsibility to live out the will of God in a life or death situation. That in itself is interesting and sells the film for me in a huge way much in the same way Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Silence did.

Overall, I’m not terribly concerned the film will be some sort of aggressively anti-conservative tract. It’ll probably have too much on its mind regarding more interesting topics. It’s likely the progressive film press will overindulge as per usual but that’s not surprising at this point.

 
 
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