A Hidden Life Blu-ray Review

Inspired by letters written by Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter to his wife, writer/director Terrence Malick tells this powerful story of a conscientious objector that faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

96

Details:

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2019
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 174 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Matthias Schoenaerts
Written & Directed by: Terrence Malick
Music by: James Newton Howard
Region Code: A

Release Date: March 17, 2020

“Based on a True Story”

Synopsis:

“Inspired by letters written by Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter to his wife, writer/director Terrence Malick tells this powerful story of a conscientious objector that faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.” – 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

My Take:

From visionary writer-director Terrence Malick comes this timeless story based on real events about an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter (played by August Diehl), who refused to fight for the Nazis during World War II. Drawing from actual letters exchanged between the Austrian farmer and his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) while Franz was in prison, the film follows the family’s remarkable journey of love and sacrifice.

After being absent from his wife and daughters for months during mandatory basic training with the German Army, Franz is permitted to return to his peaceful Austrian countryside home. But when the war unexpectedly escalates, Franz is called up to fight, and as a new soldier, to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler and the Third Reich. Yet, despite pleas from his neighbors, fellow soldiers and even trusted clergymen, Franz repeatedly refuses to take the oath.

This decision lands the peasant farmer in prison, where he awaits trial for treason. Meanwhile, not only must Fani take care of the family’s farm and their three daughters, she is ostracized by neighbors who have succumbed to the Third Reich’s demands for loyalty. Franz’ love for Fani and their three children is a testament to his unwavering spirit in this powerful drama.

Terrence Malick’s films tend to be dramatically potent and long winded. A Hidden Life is no difference. Through long periods where dialog is absent the story is conveyed via beautifully framed cinematography that is no less evocative as it speaks to the story’s examination of faith, conviction and sacrifice. Striving to render Franz’s story as a triumph of the human spirit there is a foreboding sense of dread that looms over it right up until its outcome. Despite the film’s glacial pace its moving portrait was enough to keep interest from melting away.

The performances by August Diehl and Valarie Pachner are simply marvelous while Malick’s steady hand underscores the film’s dramatic scope. I must admit to not necessarily being a devoted fan of Terrence Malick’s work but, I did find A Hidden Life to be lofty, compelling and, in the end, moving. I can’t say that it’s a film for everyone but, for those that generally connect with Malick films, its sure to resonate.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for thematic material including violent images.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

A Hidden Life comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This is a reference quality high definition transfer that looks spectacular. At times I found the visuals to be breathtaking. The film utilizes a reserved chromatic palate that sets the thematic tone for the era from which it is derived. Clothing, interior design etc. are kept within the scope of the time frame which means lots of browns, grays, greens and blacks. The nature defined colors look terrific as the deep, vivid, reds, succulent blues, and resplendent earth toned hues leap from the 2.39:1 framed video.

Brightly lit sequences are equally rewarding and feature gradational grays and crisp, delineated whites. Images are exquisitely detailed, with a near infinite sense of depth regardless of the camera’s perspective. Resolution is strong as the vastness and scope of the imagery is fully realized and appears lucid, dimensional, and artifact free. Any minor nits that I found to pick didn’t warrant a deduction in my opinion so I won’t mention them. I thought this looked amazing.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is an impressive one that makes use of the entire surround platform. It’s a sophisticated design that occasionally rewards with activity that is intricately placed within the sound field so as to provide a feeling of total immersion. I found this audio presentation to be highly detailed with excellent dynamic range which enables it to be authoritative at one moment and intricately nuanced the next. Dialog is definitive and appreciably lucid through the center channel as it reaches far into the room. It’s located just slightly in front of the left/right speakers within soundstage. I never had any trouble distinguishing even the slightest changes in the pitch or inflection of voices. Front channel separation is excellent which draws out both large and small sound elements allowing their directional correlation based upon the onscreen events to be definable. There isn’t perpetual use of the rear channels and subwoofer however when applied the effects are involving.

Bonus Features:

  • Digital Code

Final Thoughts:

From visionary filmmaker Terrence Malick and based on a true story, A Hidden Life is a compelling albeit time investing portrait of the unwavering spirit of one man who refused to compromise his beliefs. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition audio/video. I found A Hidden Life to be lofty, compelling and, in the end, moving. I can’t say that it’s a film for everyone but, for those that generally connect with Malick films, its sure to resonate. Give it a rent on Blu-ray.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems