A hauntingly beautiful film written and directed by Terrence Malick starring August Diehl and Valerie Pachner as a young couple grappling with the conflict of conscience and duty when faced with the threat of losing their way of life due to the spread of Nazism. Franz and his wife are simple farmers living a peaceful existence just outside a small village in the Austrian mountains. With their three small daughters they are used to hard work, living off the land, taking no more than they need to survive. It is their love for each other that has seen them through many tough times and will continue to do so. They are calm, peaceful folk who’s lives have continued in the same traditional way for many years. Their daily routines are filmed with great attention to detail with the surrounding countryside like a magnificent painting. The long slow shots of ploughing fields against the backdrop of changing skies along with the silhouettes of village churches, houses, barns and stables nestled in the green hills, creates a sense of infinite peace in the abundance of nature.
Malick juxtaposes this inner harmony and peace with documentary footage of the emergence of Adolph Hitler. Thousands lining the streets to greet him with flags, salutes, and expressions of adulation. It’s as if the director is asking us to imagine how difficult it must have been to go against the throng and to remain steadfast in one’s belief when pressured to become part of the relentless push forward to ultimate power. Franz refuses to join the party and for this simple act of defiance is tortured almost beyond endurance. His wife, back in the village, is spat upon by those who were once friends. The world they have known, a world of quiet reflection, of poetry in the sound of nature, of being as one with the land, themselves and each other, is about to change forever and there is no way back.
Inspired by true events and brilliant from start to finish this film, with an original score to match, has already won awards at Cannes and will probably win every other award possible along the way.
Reviewed by Renee Lou Dallow