A very damning double feature and a very damning set of opinions, but at least I'm honest. Now where's the door...
A Hidden Life
I've done a lot of thinking about this movie and I don't know if I'm the right person to judge it. Let me first say that for almost an hour, I was convinced I had seen Malick's best film since The Thin Red Line and an unappreciated masterpiece. Very powerfully, we begin the eden of Franz' married life in this German mountain-town and slowly the hints of nativism creeps in, disrupting his spiritual life. Although it's not an uncommon depiction of bliss in a Terrence Malick to show a couple happily falling into grass, embracing (does anyone in a Malick film ever had sex; does Malick, for that matter?), it's a good fit for this story. We see hints of war, and then Franz, somewhere off-screen, makes the decision to become a conscientious objector. I've only seen the film once but it seems as though his reason is something along the lines of swearing oaths to Hitler flies in the face of his faith, both due to its false god connotation but also how Nazism is corrupting and transforming those around him. If it occurs because of his military service, we don't know why because we only see brief windows into said service so it could be taken as what he sees on the battlefield or simply the act of war. To be honest, I don't know exactly why and that's sort of my problem with the film. For a film about a conscientious objector, I feel very removed from the objection. A Hidden Life becomes a long, montage-y series of moments where characters try to convince Franz to stop his conscientious objection for his own life, moments of quiet anguish and torture, and literal torture by the prison-keepers around him, leading up to his demise. A Hidden Life likely operates from a spiritualism that I feel removed from and would like to understand. As a dramatic work, Malick's intention would be to beatify the man, rather than to dramatize him. I could've used a little more of the former.
Under the Silver Lake
Now, I AM in the right position to judge this film because I quite well know every location in this film as well as most of the people (their types). This is a movie about a fuck up Millennial, with no job (a fun running joke), who becomes embroiled in a mystery seeking out a girl he barely knows and drawing together loose, barely-related conspiracies in his efforts to find her all while acting like a total piece of shit. I enjoyed the film's commitment
Let's get a one thing out of the way right now: this film is not misogynistic. Depiction is not endorsement but this movie goes out of its way to make clear its opinion about Sam. He succks. His puppy dog enthusiasm masks a litany of reprehensible qualities. The only way this movie can be considered misogynist is that it purposefully takes place through the cis male gaze, but more specifically its a depiction of a fucked-up, self-absorbed generation's (at least in Los Angeles) regressive lack of purpose so we see deaths that mimic content he's absorbed, which possibly is all happening in his head anyway. It's gross, for sure, which is the point. Now, whether or not one wants to stay in the film's company is another story...
David Robert Mitchell makes it entirely clear that nothing in this movie might be as we're seeing it, as he also suggests that with a lifetime of absorbed entertainment experiences amidst a nostalgia zeitgeist, ANYTHING could be a murder-mystery with clues to untangle. Oh, also, he might be a pet murderer. What's slightly problematic about the film is how Sam meets actual people outside his sphere who give him information (like the songwriter, a conversation which feels like a cheat and/or thuddingly heavy-handed). What's less so is how it dunks on the protagonist the entire time. I can't stress this enough: I know this guy. The scruff, puppy dog attitude, unserious thoughts, zero body fat, teenager clothing. This film is a comedy about a guy with so little going on he is constructing nonsense to live out what he's allowed himself to be programmed to think. Andrew Garfield is hilarious in what is the best performance I've seen him give. I enjoyed this as a supremely confident lark as well as how absurdly loose the conspiracy connections were and how it just kept going to new, weird places. Full disclosure: over the past five years, I've lost four friends to cults and one to QAnon. A lack of purpose in society can be a terrible thing. This film knows it and wants to explore it and I was here for it. Not great but I was here for it.
Sorry, I responded more to the film about the Millennial slackerpath more than the spiritual conscientious objector.
"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." ~ FDR