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, “A Hidden Life,” 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.
This pre-Christmas weekend often launches awards contenders into limited release ahead of wider audience attention. Both “Uncut Gems” A24 and “Bombshell” Lionsgate gambled and won, clicking with strong New York/Los Angeles performances.
On the other hand, Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” Fox Searchlight, though never expected to have the same potential, fell far short of its hopes with a weak start in the same cities. It broadens out to more limited engagements next week.
“Seberg” Amazon starring Kristen Stewart as the iconic actress booked a qualifying one-week run with no grosses reported ahead of further limited theatrical play, with a Prime date set for February.
Uncut Gems A24 – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, New York 2019
$525,498 in 5 theaters; PTA: $105,100
The Safdie brothers’ character study of a troubled Diamond District merchant Adam Sandler boasted a triumphant start at five New York/Los Angeles theaters. Aided by some Q&A screenings, but strong throughout the weekend, this placed behind “Parasite” as the best platform of the year so far. “Uncut Gems” was aided by more access to seats and screens and less overall competition–it’s tracking at the same level as A24’s “Moonlight” two years ago.
So far the movie is performing without any awards boost for Best Actor candidate Sandler, but reviews are among the best this month. A24 plans to take “Uncut Gems” wide on Christmas Day. For any distributor, claiming real estate on that date is a challenge: it’s even more so for an intense indie drama. A24 shows faith in the film with this opening platform, and more with its goal to move quickly in a potentially lucrative period. This level of gross makes that task easier, as does the drawing power of a movie star. For all the flak that Sandler’s infantile-character comedies get, he has remained a star, particularly with Netflix originals. It looks like he found the right vehicle to match his talents.
What comes next: This sticks to the same theaters this week before it expands on Christmas.
Lionsgate / screencap
Bombshell Lionsgate – Metacritic: 65
$312,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $78,000
Timing can be everything. The reviews for Jay Roach’s retelling of how Megyn Kelly and other Fox News women dealt with harassment have been mildly favorable. But the strong showing in initial Golden Globe and SAG nominations, along with a vigorous marketing campaign launched this to a strong debut. The movie sold out some showings at four top New York/Los Angeles theaters, enhanced by...