A Hidden Life: Terrence Malick, for me, is a painter of pictures. His art is moving pictures along with music and soft voiceovers. In his last few films efforts, he has been following (more or less) a similar structure of storytelling which for many viewers can be seen as slow and boring. The previous three features, Knight of Cups, To the Wonder and The Tree of Life have all followed this telling style. I like it. As a teenager I would have been bored, but now I am taken in by the images and the surrounding storyline. It was most successful in The Tree of Life. Less so in Knight of Cups. This one is somewhere in the middle. There is more structure with this story as it shows the times of a husband and wife, with children in rural Austria during WWII. The husband is effectively played by August Diehl, previously unknown to me. He plays a conscientious objector to Hitler and the Third Reich. He refuses to swear his allegiance to Hitler and feels as though humans are losing their way. He puts not only himself but his wife, children and extended family at risk by taking the position he has. For Malick films the actors have to have expressive faces, since there isn’t always a lot of dialog. He and his wife are both very effective with this. The surrounding cast too. I think it could be a difficult task to act in these movies because there is so much that is just free flowing. Light is always a crucial factor. You can wait a log time for a cloud to move or the sun to sit higher in the sky. Much would not be scripted, and Malick would likely talk in broad strokes about how he would want to actors to interact. They would have a camera in tight shots to their faces often. The surroundings here in a farm in the mountains of Austria are breathtakingly beautiful. In truth, the mountains were in Italy and it was made to feel like Austria. But the scenes with mountains, streams, fields, grass, fences, barns and all of it are vibrant. They bring the viewer in. Malick could be flipping pages in a large coffee table book when scenes move from one to another. I won’t delve deeper into the storyline because it in some ways for me was a little incongruous to what I had known about the Nazi regime. I will take them as reflective of a process since there are specific dates which are noted when things have occurred. Movies like this for me can be measured on whether they successfully make you feel something. In this instance, can you empathize with not only the main character but also the wife, the sister-in-law, the surrounding townsfolk. A small rural farming community in a time of war isn’t the easiest place to make a political statement and blend in. Quite the contrary. The story has of course subtle implications for the present day, and looking through the lens of the future with acts of those who were at the time condemned but in hindsight appear to be of someone who saw through the noise, propaganda and rhetoric. I enjoyed this film. Austria/Italy hasn’t looked so pretty since The Sound of Music! Part of me hopes that the Malick style can evolve, since I do believe that Tree of Life was the pinnacle of his art. Still, seeing more pretty pictures married with words, music and story is not an unwelcome prospect.
I re-watched Manhunt: Unabomber with Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany over the past few days and once again I am struck by the course of action taken by Kaczensky’s legal representative. In the US where there is a constitutional doctrine of “fruit of the poison tree” which dictates any evidence found from an illegal search must be thrown out, means that a valid challenge by Kaczensky on the Search Warrant issue runs the risk that all that damning evidence could be inadmissible. In Canada we have a further test which allows that if the legal justice system would be put into disrepute by such a finding, that the evidence could still be admitted. We have an extra layer of societal consideration which can overcome an individual’s challenge in such a case as this. In this case, Kaczenky’s lawyer found a legal loophole to run counter to his interests. He was railroaded. It is an interesting example of how the system can find ways to address stickly situations when lawyers act not only as staunch defenders of their clients but also as officers of the Court. The experiments undertaken at Harvard as well are surprising to view. That professor should be ashamed of his methods with the ongoing negative impacts to the participants of the study.