Friday, April 3, 2020

A Hidden Life

What a perfect film to watch during lent--the whole thing was a depiction of the way of the cross. The church artist in the film tells us he was never brave enough to paint the real Christ on the cross--not sentimentalized, but suffering. Malick takes up the challenge in the film. Franz, like Christ, stands before his accusers, saying nothing. He is beaten. He suffers and prays at Golgotha.

The film is maybe too overt in highlighting the irony of a temptation that Franz suffers that what he does doesn't matter--no one will know of his choices, and they will change nothing. Two tempters say this same thing. And of course the viewer, watching, is being changed by seeing and responding to this depiction of Franz's life. His actions mean everything to the world, even though in a way they were small and hidden.

What this whole film made me think of was Socrates: Is it worse to do evil or to suffer it? If you are simply a good person, you will have no skills to protect yourself and the ones you love when evil tries to take over, Callicles tells us. Socrates replies--the most important thing is to be virtuous and if you are a good person, you will have the power to teach your friends how to be good, which is the most important protection and defense you can offer them.

And only the good man is even capable of having friends, Socrates says. Those who are evil are not. This idea is woven through the whole film: Franz and Fani's love and care for each other is strong. They are capable of love and friendship and deep connection in a way that the soldiers are not. Franz can share his food with another inmate, take joy from being reunited with an old friend in prison, and comfort someone who is being killed just before him (flashback to Christ being killed between two thieves). His relationship with Fani gives him strength. His mother cruelly blames Franz's actions on Fani, but in some sense she is right--Franz wouldn't have done this without Fani. They are practicing goodness together, spurring each other to more goodness.

Just as Socrates stays to receive his punishment from the city, so Franz stays. Fani sees someone in the woods who has run away--he is like an animal. Before Franz is killed by the Nazis, the community eschews them, though when he is killed, they seem to recognize what they have done.

And I haven't even mentioned the incredibly beautiful mountain setting, as well as Malick's beautiful filming--even the shots of the prison are gorgeous. So much light and dark, so much visual play on freedom.


hopkins said...

YES to all of this. I also have to say, watching it in theaters, it was completely encompassing. I mean, I didn't think about the outside world at all, or about my comfort (in the chair, etc.) or about going to the bathroom or being thirsty. I was just totally immersed. It was only afterwards talking and thinking about it, that much of this came home to me.

Emily Hale said...

I'm jealous! Because we are old and weak we watched it an hour a night for three nights--not quite the same experience!