Terrence Malick has been considerably more prolific in the last decade than in previous decades, some of which saw the celebrated director output a total of zero films. Those recent films, however - with the exception of the Oscar-nominated Tree of Life - have been met with less than ecstatic reaction. Whether it’s the switch to contemporary urban settings, the total abandonment of conventional narrative, or something else entirely, Malick simply hasn’t been on the form of his first several films.
A Hidden Life, however, appears to be a departure from Malick’s recent output. While it still bears many of the director’s hallmarks, the trailer for the Cannes-selected film suggests a far more narratively-focused movie - with goals, stakes, and everything. Check it out:
Still looks like a Malick movie - but it’s like a Malick version of a movie that could have been directed by any number of prestigious directors. His wide lenses and obsession with texture, dance, and life itself are all there. The mountainous setting - the film was shot on location in Italy - also helps, as it allows Malick to get back to shooting people in immense landscapes. He's also got a great cast, as usual, though more European than his usual America-centric films - including the final performances of Michael Nyqvist and Meme Hitler Bruno Ganz.
Then all of a sudden we’re in World War II, and in the midst of a very specific ethical conundrum and plotline. The true story - about Austrian conscientious objector, Hitler-oath-refuser, and official Pope-approved martyr Franz Jägerstätter - is a pretty intriguing one, especially given the times we currently live in, but as far as cinema goes, it’s as inspirational-awards-movie as they come. Blending that with Malick’s convention-shrugging style should make the film quite an interesting companion piece to The Thin Red Line, which took on the same world war in an entirely different manner.
A Hidden Life releases on December 13th.