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A Hidden Life Movie Poster Based on real events, A HIDDEN LIFE is the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to figh...

A Hidden Life [Movie]

A Hidden Life Movie Poster
Based on real events, A HIDDEN LIFE is the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. When the Austrian peasant farmer is faced with the threat of execution for treason, it is his unwavering faith and his love for his wife Fani and children that keeps his spirit alive.

AUGUST DIEHL
VALERIE PACHNER
MARIA SIMON
TOBIAS MORETTI
BRUNO GANZ
MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS
KARIN NEUHÄUSER
ULRICH MATTHES
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY………………………………………………………………...………..TERRENCE MALICK
PRODUCED BY………………………………………………………………………………………………….GRANT HILL, p.g.a.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….DARIO BERGESIO
……………………………………………………………………………………………………….…………………………..JOSH JETER
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………ELISABETH BENTLEY
EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY……………………………………………………………………………..…… MARCUS LOGES
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….……………ADAM MORGAN
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…….……………BILL POHLAD
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…….……………YI WEI
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………CHRISTOPH FISSER
……………………………………………………………………………………………...………….………HENNING MOLFENTER
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…...…CHARLIE WOEBCKEN
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY……………………………………………………………...……………... JOERG WIDMER
PRODUCTION DESIGNER………………………………………………………………………...SEBASTIAN KRAWINKEL
EDITED BY……………………………………………………………………………………………………..REHMAN NIZAR ALI
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..JOE GLEASON
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………SEBASTIAN JONES
MUSIC BY……………………………………………………………………………………………..JAMES NEWTON HOWARD
COSTUME DESIGNER……………………………………………………………………………………………….LISY CHRISTL
CASTING DIRECTOR…………………………………………………………………………………………….ANJA DIHRBERG

Fox Searchlight Pictures presents, an Elizabeth Bay Production in association with Aceway and Studio Babelsberg, A Hidden Life. Written and Directed by Terrence Malick, the film stars August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Maria Simon, Tobias Moretti, Bruno Ganz, Matthias Schoenaerts, Karin Neuhäuser and Ulrich Matthes. The producers are Grant Hill, p.g.a., Dario Bergesio, Josh Jeter and Elisabeth Bentley. Executive Producers are Marcus Loges and Adam Morgan. The filmmaking team includes director of photography Joerg Widmer, production designer Sebastian Krawinkel, film editors Rehman Nizar Ali, Joe Gleason and Sebastian Jones, music by James Newton Howard and costume designer Lisy Christl.

“…for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in the unvisited tombs.” – George Eliot

ORIGINS
A HIDDEN LIFE is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer (August Diehl) who refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler during World War II, sacrificing everything, including his life, rather than to fight for the Nazis. Born and raised in the village of St. Radegund, Jägerstätter is farming his land when war breaks out. Married to Franziska (Fani) (Valerie Pachner), the couple are very much in love and involved with the tight-knit community. They live a simple life in the fertile valleys and mountains of upper Austria, with the passing years marked by the arrival of the couple’s three girls.

When Franz is called up to basic training, a requirement for all Austrian men, he is away from his beloved wife and children for months. Eventually, when France surrenders and it seems the war might end soon, he is sent back home. His mother and sister-in-law Resie come to live with them, and for a while things seem to go on as normal.

Instead of retreating, the war escalates, and Franz and the other men in the village are called up to fight. The first requirement of a new soldier is to swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Despite pleas from his neighbors, fellow soldiers and commanding officers, Franz refuses the oath—objecting to Hitler and the Nazi regime. With his quiet act of resistance he asks the question, “if leaders are evil, what does one do?” With a sense of personal responsibility and the inability to do what he believes is wrong, Franz refuses.

Meanwhile Fani is left to deal with the aftermath of his decision. Not only is she now the caretaker of the family’s farm as well as her three young daughters, Fani is ostracized from her community. Fear of Hitler forces once kindly neighbors to turn their backs on the Jägerstätter family. Wrestling with the knowledge that his decision would mean arrest and likely death, Franz finds strength in Fani’s love and support. He is imprisoned, first in Enns, then in Berlin— and waits months for trial. During his time in prison, he and Fani write letters to one another and give each
other strength.

After months of incarceration, the case goes to trial. Franz is found guilty and sentenced to death. While Franz’s faith drives him to resist taking the oath to Hitler, representatives from religious, civic, government and military institutions plead with him to disavow his beliefs and swear his allegiance, even if he is disingenuous, in order to save his life. Franz continues to stand up for his beliefs and is executed by the Third Reich in August 1943. His wife and three daughters survive.

The relationship between Franz and his wife Fani endures. The film portrays their bond as deeply as Franz’s devotion to his cause. At every turn Fani is there for Franz—strong, unfaltering and supportive of his path while raising their daughters and running the farm alone, eventually with
help from her mother-in-law and sister.

Terrence Malick’s film draws on actual letters exchanged between Franz and Fani while Jägerstätter was in prison. The collection was edited by Erna Putz and published in English by Orbis Books. Some lines have been added to the letters, and sometimes the letters are paraphrased.

The story was little known outside of St. Radegund, and might never have been discovered, were it not for the research of Gordon Zahn, an American who visited the village in the 1970s.

Producer Grant Hill has worked on several of Malick’s films before, including The Thin Red Line. Grant notes that the themes of A Hidden Life resonated with Malick: “It’s an extraordinary, enduring love story that investigates human reactions and motivations and just how far people will push for their beliefs and conscience. It asks hard questions—do you have the right to hurt people that you love in service of the greater good? Ultimately, it is a timeless story of devotion, love and forgiveness writ large. I think those aspects appealed very much to Terry,” Hill says

A Hidden Life differs from the director’s previous films in that it is his first biographical film based on real people whose descendants are still alive. “The family had suffered enormously, and Terry wanted Franz’s daughters to be involved and give their stamp of approval. We set up a meeting with them through intermediaries to find out if there was a way for him to tell the story that did justice to the storyline and made them feel comfortable. Ultimately, they were prepared to trust Terry with Franz’s legacy, and we worked with them throughout production,” Hill explains.



CASTING CALLS
In the early days of the project Terrence Malick made the decision to only cast Austrian and German actors to preserve the authenticity of the story. Introduced by executive producer Marcus Loges, Malick and Hill worked with casting director Anja Dihrberg (The Captain) had to find the right alchemy of characters. Hill comments, “Even though I’ve spent time in Germany and knew a lot of the actors, it was astounding how many really talented people were coming out.

When casting the principal roles of Franz and Fani it was apparent that there had to be a natural relationship between the two roles. Valerie Pachner (The Ground Beneath My Feet) emerged first and landed the role of Fani. “Valerie can light up the room. She is very strong having been brought up in that area. She knew exactly who that character would be,” said Hill.

Knowing that they needed to find an exact match in Franz to Valerie’s Fani, the team was nearing the end of the casting process when August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds) entered the picture. Hill remembers, “Terry had talked to August a number of times, but he was busy and couldn’t get in. What was going to be our last session, Anja called late in the day and said that August was in town unexpectedly, and he could be over to the office in half an hour—he came in and read the pages with Valerie. In that first reading you could see it straight away. They moved together and they had both vulnerability and strength together.”

Reflecting on the casting process August Diehl says, “I remember the first time I read the script I had a lot of talks with Terrence. He was curious about me and who he was going to work with. I remember talking about life and how we each see things,” says Diehl. “I grew up in France on a farm without electricity. He was curious about all this, about how I live and what my experiences were.” Diehl says he treated the letters between the husband and wife almost like another script alongside Malick’s.

Valerie Pachner had her first conversations with Malick over the phone. “When he called me the first time we didn’t make any small talk. We immediately talked about the world and life and in that moment, I just felt ‘wow, that’s where I want to go, this is someone I want to work with.’” Pachner, who grew up in Austria, felt close to the story. “People relied on each other, and at that time that also meant that you could not break out and be different. You had to toe the line. That’s why this story is so unusual.”

Malick sent her a book about women in the first World War working on the farms when the men were away fighting. She also got a present from a friend: a whole book about scything. Diehl describes working with Pachner as very special, “We were actually both very much devoting ourselves to the roles because it has so much to do with trust,” he says. “You have to trust somebody very much to make this film and we risked a lot. And with Valerie I felt—from the first moment—that she was willing to do the same, to take the same risks.”

For her part, Pachner describes working with Diehl as intense and intimate. “The first five or six weeks we were constantly together and constantly working,” she says.


Hill credits the connection between the actors to casting director Anja Dihrberg, “She played an extraordinary role. She did a wonderful job in a very bespoke sort of way.”













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