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A Hidden Life

Director: Terrence Malick Starring: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner. Matthias Schoenaerts 174 minutes Category 12A

The opening scene of this film reminded me so much of the beginning of the film The Sound of Music, that I expected to see Julie Andrews run over the brow of the hill and break into song! Both films are set in Austria against the backdrop of the German occupation, a conscientious objector and religious themes; but the similarity ends there.

The film is long, but not overlong. It gradually unpacks a story that moves from an idyllic rural mountain setting, a hard working farmer (based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, and his little family) to the dark themes of harassment, intimidation and hardship.

The soundtrack combines music, scripture and prayers that perfectly matches the mood of the film. At one point the words of Psalm 139 can be heard: “Even the darkness is as light to you.” 

The film brilliantly captures the creeping darkness that surrounds this family and the refusal to allow that darkness to enter or defeat a resolute spirit. I was reminded of the title of one of Eugene Peterson’s books: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. This is a powerful insight on the extent to which evil can penetrate society and the possibilities for faith to overcome evil with good. The title comes from a George Elliot quote.

“... for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs”.

This is one of those films that can change the lens through which the viewer sees life. It is on limited release; watch it if you can.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle in West Sussex

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