A Hidden Life Parent Guide
Powerful themes of courage and integrity come with very little in the way of negative content making the movie's extended run time worth watching.
Parent Movie Review
Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), has spent his life as a simple peasant farmer in the beautiful Austrian village of St. Radegund. Working the land alongside his wife Franziska (Valerie Pachner), their young children, and his friends and neighbors, he doesn’t expect the larger troubles of the world to come crashing down upon him. But war has broken out, and Franz is conscripted by the Nazis. Unwilling to swear the required oath of allegiance to Hitler, he is imprisoned, threatened, humiliated, and beaten - all in an attempt to force him to join the Wehrmacht (Nazi armed forces).
If you’re familiar with any of Terrence Malick’s work, you will be unsurprised that the style of this film has little in common with conventional Hollywood productions. Part of that is due to the nature of the screenplay: Malick bought the adaptation rights to the letters and journals written by Jägerstätter in prison, and much of that epistolary style carries over into the film. The other oddity (to a conventional audience) is the camera work, which involves a lot of long, lingering shots of backgrounds which, though stunning, certainly keep the film’s pacing down and the runtime up.
Despite the quirks of Malick’s unique style, this is a beautiful film and well worth the absurdly long three hours it takes to watch. A Hidden Life has a terribly prescient message about standing up to authoritarianism and evil, whatever the cost. In a world where numerous neo-fascist parties are on the rise (AfD in Germany, the FPO in Austria, Vox in Spain, and the Five-Star Movement in Italy), the responsibility of citizens to recognize evil is greater than ever. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “The only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
Even more impressively, these powerful positive messages come with hardly any objectionable content. There’s no profanity (in English, at any rate; if there are German curses I couldn’t understand them), no sex, little on-screen violence, and no major substance abuse. A Hidden Life earns its “PG-13” rating from its difficult adult themes and allusions to violence. That said, this is not a suitable movie for children or young teens, simply because it’s filled with mature themes and is long and challenging, which tends to make for restless kids.
In 2007, Franz Jägerstätter was recognized as a martyr and beatified by the Roman Catholic Church – the same church that had signed the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany, essentially bowing to Hitler in order to maintain their churches in the Reich. The moral courage it takes to stand up for your values when your life hangs in the balance is something both uncommon and tragically necessary. It is fortunate that the messages found in Franz Jägerstätter’s life are no longer hidden but are visible for all to see and, hopefully, emulate.Directed by Terrence Malick. Starring August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, and Michael Nyquist. Running time: 180 minutes. Theatrical release December 13, 2019. Updated April 6, 2020
Watch the trailer for A Hidden Life
A Hidden Life
Rating & Content Info
Why is A Hidden Life rated PG-13? A Hidden Life is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material including violent images.
Violence: A fistfight breaks out between two men. An individual is shot off-screen. A dead pig is shown in the context of butchering farm animals for food. Several individuals are repeatedly beaten and humiliated by guards. A guillotine is shown in black-and-white, surrounded by what is presumably blood, and several individuals are executed with it off-screen.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: None in English, there may be some in German but there aren’t any subtitles.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Several background characters are shown drinking beer in a bar and smoking tobacco.
Page last updated April 6, 2020
A Hidden Life Parents' Guide
Franz is prepared to lose everything - his home, his family, even his life – for his belief that the Nazis are evil and his refusal to be complicit. Do you have any principles you would die to uphold? What makes it worth it to Franz? He is repeatedly told that his defiance is not going to alter the course of the war, which is true. Why does he do it? If no one can see his resistance while he is in prison, then why does he continue to resist?
Many of the consequences of Franz’s choice fall on his wife, Franziska, and their children. How does Franziska adapt to the way she is treated in the village? What are the long-term consequences for her of her husband’s decision?
How historically accurate is A Hidden Life? Find out below.
For more information about Franz Jägerstätter, check out the links below:
The National WWII Museum: The Story of Austrian Catholic Resister Franz Jägerstätter
Wikipedia: Franz Jägerstätter
Catholic World Report: The solitary and sacrificial witness of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter
For more information about Germany’s annexation of Austria, read the following:
Loved this movie? Try these books…
What made Franz Jägerstätter willing to die for his own convictions? You can read his own words in Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison. Gordon Zahn has also written an account of this Catholic martyr entitled In Solitary Witness.
Some Germans also tried to resist Hitler’s evil. In Hitler’s Traitors: German Resistance to the Nazis, Susan Ottaway tells their stories. Doreen Rappaport covers resistance across occupied Europe in Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Anschluss – Germany’s annexation of Austria – you will want to check our Eric Vuillard’s award-winning book, The Order of the Day. Translated by Mark Polizzotti from the original French, this provides a European perspective on a critical event.
Ben Sherman tells his own story of conscience, service, and sacrifice in Medic! The Story of a Conscientious Objector in the Vietnam War.
What leads people to take great risks to fight against evil? In Beautiful Souls, Eyal Press investigates people who have stood up against evil to protect their fellow human beings.
The most recent home video release of A Hidden Life movie is March 17, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
A Man for All Seasons, staring Paul Scofield, tells the true story of Sir Thomas More, a devout Catholic and the Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII, who refused to take the Oath of Succession, which acknowledged Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church. His trials and persecutions for this belief bear a remarkable similarity to Franz Jägerstätter’s.
For a family friendly account of resistance against the Nazi-fication of Austria, everyone can watch The Sound of Music.
The 1996 adaptation of The Crucible, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Wynona Rider (with an appearance by Paul Scofield as Judge Danforth) centers around the moral hysteria of the witch trials in Salem. John Proctor, played by Lewis, is forced to confront his own morally uncertain past and his willingness to bear false witness to save his own life.
Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg, relates the behavior of wealthy German industrialist Oskar Schindler during the Second World War, and his efforts to save the lives of Jewish labourers during the Holocaust, at great expense and personal risk.
A more youth-friendly film is Swing Kids, starring Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, and Frank Whaley as a group of jazz-enthusiasts in Nazi Germany, who have to stand up for their beliefs as they are pressured to join the Hitler Youth.
In Hacksaw Ridge, a religious pacifist named Desmond T Doss refused to take up arms in World War II but volunteered to serve as a medic. Despite scorn and bullying in military training, Doss saved over 75 of his fellow soldiers in the field.