Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I going to a theater to see A Hidden Life? It should offer me nothing. It is a Terrence Malick movie, and I swore I wouldn’t watch his stuff anymore! They just kept making my worst of the year list, and I never got an ounce of pleasure out of them, just pain.
I think I have missed one or two of his films since my declaration and my life has been notably happier.
So why did I decide to see* a three hour movie of his, in theaters, with subtitles? Because it had to go and get nominated for a Spirit Award for Best Feature. Damn it, I usually like those best features. Maybe this one is different? Maybe he is trying something new?
Maybe I won’t feel like quitting my job as a reviewer over it?
The waves of grass and aloof voice over is already calling me to the void.
Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) is just an Austrian dude, living in a super small community in the mountains, trying to live his best life. He meets a cutie with a booty, Fani (Valerie Pachner), they hit it off, and then start doing the house thing together. They do their farming, their animal raising and shit, have a few kids along the way. They have help when they need it, but they try to do their own thing.
Well, this takes place during WWII. That’s not good. Franz is sent to boot camp for a bit, when Austria is still sort of independent, but gets sent back when they realize they won’t need people because France surrendered and war should be done soon.
But it ain’t. And that German influence sweeps over Austria, even in their small community. Everyone starts Heiling Hitler, wearing swastikas, signing pledges, but Franz doesn’t. That doesn’t make sense based on his values, he wants to just continue to stay out of it.
Then they draft him, but he refuses. So he is imprisoned by the war machine and has to write letters to his wife and kids and just wait out the war. And waiting he and us viewers sure do a lot of.
Mowing takes a goddamn century if you have more than a small amount of land.
Knowing what I was going to get into and the length, I figured there was a good chance this movie makes me sleep. I told the rep, just let it be (and they always do), maybe record how much I sleep for this review. It turned out that only two critics came to this screening, including me, because others had it on DVD by then I guess and didn’t care for the big screen.
And you know what happened? The security guard woke me up. It was hard to pay attention early on, but I passed out, and I was shook awake with very little actually sleep. The nerve of that man. I didn’t want to be touched in the dark in my sleep, so then I had to battle and just force myself to stay awake which became a very unpleasant game.
At some point I needed to know how much time was left, feeling it was forever, so I went to the restroom, and found it at only half of the run time gone. Oh no. No no no no.
I got my stuff, wrote my note, and left. Yes, I walked out of the movie, halfway through, because of annoyance at security and getting very little out of the plot or story. It was more of the same from Malick. Maybe he dialed back a little bit of the whimsy for this one, but more of the goddamn same.
I read the plot outline on Wikipedia, and when I left he was already in prison and jailed in Berlin with his wife wondering where he was at. It seems very little happened after that, so I don’t know how it lasted another 90 minutes.
Oh wait, yes I do. Malick.