Director Terrence Malick rarely shows up for anything these days, but the “Tree of Life” and “Days of Heaven” filmmaker was in attendance at a screening of his new film, “ ,” at the Vatican this past Thursday. Releasing from Fox Searchlight, “A Hidden Life” centers on the real-life story of conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter. While he refused to fight on the side of the Nazis during WWII, he was declared a martyr by the Catholic Church and was sentenced to death at 36.
The screening was held in the Vatican Film Library event space. Claudia Di Giovanni, Delegate of the Vatican Film Library, said, “It is an honor to present this film in this venue, as we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Vatican Film Library, where we have saved films which narrate the history of the Church but also remind us of important values. It is also key for the dialogue of the Vatican with the film world.”
Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery of Communications, introduced the film, saying, “We thank Terrence Malick for being here and sharing this moment with us. The narrative of the film is at the same time beautiful and terrible, and it is a challenge because we are brought to face our souls, our consciences, our fears, our forgetfulness and our avoidance of responsibilities. This narrative overturns the rhetoric of heroism, because it tells of a hidden hero, in a film which speaks of love, of consistency, of death and resurrection. It tells of how important it is to keep our memories and tell them with such beauty.”
“A Hidden Life,” which releases stateside on December 13 and is Malick’s first feature since 2017’s Austin-set romance “Song to Song,” joins the rare list of movies that have earned the Vatican’s seal of approval. That includes Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” “Spotlight,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Babette’s Feast,” and “Pokémon: The First Movie.”
IndieWire recently sat down with the two stars of “A Hidden Life,” August Diehl and Valerie Pachner, who discussed their process on the World War II drama while working with American cinema’s most elusive director.