Valerie Pachner & August Diehl Speak On "A Hidden Life," A Film Based On True Events


thanks everybody welcome to build I'm

your host Ricky Camilleri and our next

guests are these stars of the upcoming

Terrence Malick film a hidden life it's

the beautiful heartbreaking and

inspiring story of Franz Jaeger Studdard

an Austrian farmer who becomes a

conscientious objector during World War


Auguste steel stars as Franz and Valerie

partner plays his wife left on the farm

fending for herself against the

villagers prejudices and duties of the

land it's a devastatingly beautiful film

that only the singular Malik could make

let's take a look

remember the day when we first met


I remember that motorcycle my best dress

he looked at me and I knew

how simple life Weston


what's happened to our country we're

killing innocent people raiding other

countries preying on a weak if our

leaders if they're evil what does one do

you have a duty to the father now the

sheriff tells us

you cannot say no to your race and your

home you are a traitor

I can't swear loyalty to Hitler they

can't do you think your defenses will

change the course of things if God gives

us free well we're responsible for what

we do what we fail to do

I can't do what I believe is wrong

we have to stand up to evil

whatever you do I'm with you always


everybody please put your hands together

for August Steele and Valerie partner

thank you thank you thank you so much

for being here thank you so much for

making this movie incredibly beautiful

beautiful film a great Malick movie

purity really it's hard to talk about as

I said in the green room I'm gonna do my

best to get through it maybe without

crying because I cried a lot during this

movie especially that wonderful shot

that comes back of the motorcycle going

down the road it was almost too much to

bear so talking about how this how this

started what is it like when you get a

call from Terrence Malick or Terrence

Malick's people or whatever it is that

the hoops that you jump through to work

with him how did this start for the two

of you um for me it started four years

ago in July 2015 I got a call from the

casting director in Berlin on a dybbuk

if I wanted to come in for Terrence

Malick's next movie and I wanted of

course but I didn't have anything to

prepare which was good I think because I

think I would have freaked out just you

know thinking of preparing for a

Terrence Malick movie I mean how do you

even prepare for you feel bad I guess

you can't I mean I was glad I didn't

have to I didn't so I was I just went

there and there they gave me they told

me what it's about more or less that it

gave me one of the original letters in

English and I sort of improvised with

the letter but I honestly after it I

didn't think I you know I was like okay

now that's I'm not a wife and a mother

of three and and also with English I

felt like okay no that's not gonna

happen but I'm three weeks later I got

to call it I'm M cast and that like that

was it it was only that one time that I

this was 2015

yes so when did you start shooting 2016

dot in 2016 and getting edited for the

last three years three years gonna have

to now Wow

that is wild I had no idea that it was

that it was that long of a process has

he not made anything or shot anything

since since then was all that other

stuff before that song the song and

native come yeah I think he was still

sort of editing song to song after we

shot like he was still finish

the Edit on that one so that that might

also be a reason but ya know it really

took a long time to the whole

post-production process there and I just

what about you it was I came later to

the project I heard rumors and billon

that there is a terrence malick casting

going on and went for years I think I

was a bit disappointed that nobody

called me I remember but then finally

actually was like onion back the casting

director called me to come and - to meet

Valerie and Grant Hill the producer and

we did an audition together a scene

scene that was written it was a scene

that was written yeah and it's think

still in the movies what how it's

written and directed by him but this

feels I think compared to the last few

movies of this much more written simply

maybe because there are story pillars

that it has to hit it being based on a

true story taking place during World War

two what does this script look like when

you get to set every ever every day for

a Terrence Malick movie the script yeah

well I mean the script sort of stayed

the same but what we did was something

else every day so we had the script and

you know since it's based on true events

it's also like it has this very clear

narrative and it was clear for all of us

you can't go that far but every day when

you come to set you might have like you

know you have like the call sheet with

the scene we would always improvise

around those scenes so you would not end

up doing only that scene but maybe you

know improvise around that or also after

I think like after a few weeks there

were more and more on the collar [ __ ]

there were more scenes that were just

labeled xx or something you know it

didn't mean like he's gonna make

homemade additional scenes like not not

one that is actually in the script so

it's like this makes of on the one hand

you have the script and you have the

narrative but then you are allowed to

improvise around that and would just

have this space to come up with your own

ideas and your own you know

contribute to it on your yourself not

only is strictly following the dialogue

but really be encouraged to come up with

ideas on your own which is great for an

actor you know to be able to do that

what does that like for you is your

character is sort of figuring out what

is happening in German and in Austrian

and German society at this time and he's

sort of recognizing how far off the

rails things are going not just

politically but within his own village

and his friends and the people that he

sort of he's been around for years I

think it was a very slow process this

decision to not participate the war and

to not swear the oath to Hitler I think

it was like step by step coming first of

all the war came and he saw what is

happening also in the village people

were like the Nazi scum came in and

other farms went to war and he I think

first of all it was a feeling to say no

I can't I can't I can't kill and then in

the decision gets bigger and bigger and

he he felt more and more how complicated

this will be also for his family and for

his kids and for the whole village do

you get to explore that arc that

progression chronologically while you're

shooting in the mountains yeah that was

a big advantage when I'm looking back I

never did a movie that was so much

chronologically shots and we really

ended the movie in Berlin and we started

the movie like the movie as actually

starting in in South Tyrol and it helped

a lot because like this I could really

go the whole journey and I remember

being in prison I was really missing the

mountains and and I knew that we would

not come back there and she's not gonna

shoot there again so um it helps a lot

when you do especially in this story I

think it helps and helped me a lot too

to make it chronologically there's what

some things that I just don't know how

Malick does it they're just almost isn't

a false bone in his body in terms of

what he's gonna portray the scenes of

you sort of going crazy

not necessarily crazy but Lucy

a little bit while locked away we have

seen a version of that seen in plenty of

prison movies before yet somehow he

finds a way to get a very new

perspective and new kind of performance

from you and shots that I've never seen

in in in that room before it's almost

like as much as he's a recluse he must

be an avid watcher of all different

kinds of movies to know how things have

been betrayed and how they haven't been

portrayed oh yeah for we never really

spoke about you you're actually not

really speaking about this with Terrance

you speak about other things and I

thought I know that his way of shooting

a movie is very personal and very he's

like looking for something that is

unexplainable and he's very much

searching in the silence of things and

and we wouldn't talk really he would

never say like August this time you do

this and that and he's like looking with

you together for the story of the movie

so we were encouraged also to do this

movie with him together and and so how

does that work what is the conversation

then for instance in the cell what is

that conversation with him like if he's

not guiding you or directing you towards

something specific or you just is he

kind of listening to you and then

agreeing when something comes up that he

thinks will work yeah he would also give

you like um texts and stuff that and the

day before he would send you let's say

he would say um maybe you have this

Psalm in your head when you're sitting

there or this is an interesting text of

Heidegger please read it and don't tell

me what you think about it have it in

you or um it's like yeah it's very like

it's it's very hard to speak as you said

at the beginning is very hard to speak

about this because it's so unspeakable

it's like and that's what he's looking

actually for and not a language but a

feeling and therefore even now even in I

think even in Germany I would not I

would stumble I would like not really

know how to talk about this but it's so

it's it has to do with a lot of trust

and therefore he was also very so much

interested in us personally where we are

where we were growing up where we're

coming from


we got to know each other very well

through this whole process not that you

ever would but it sort of forces the

actor to not be able to take anything

for granted in a way in terms of when

you show up to set it's not like you

have your scene you can memorize your

lines you can back this is what I'm

gonna try to do with these lines today

you have to memorize Heidegger and think

about what that actually means to you

yeah that's incredible yeah experience

you know he's gonna sit you down in

front of the camera okay now think about

that yeah I remember also that we didn't

scenes together with a dialogue and a

real like a normal scene and then he

would say now we do the scene again but

you just think the dialogue you don't

say it anymore so and that makes also

something you know it's very it was at

the beginning I have to admit I had to

to get used to this but um you can

explore your own profession in a very

different way when you work with

terrence malick it's like an also the

fact that you discover that you that

it's very much allowed to be boring for

days and not always delivering but and

you so much encourage to fail too yeah

you don't have to deliver it's not that

one day where after that difficult scene

that you have to deliver because you

will go back to that scene over and over

again in different you know and once you

will do the scene in the bar and then

the next day on the field and then so

there's always there's almost a sense of

like you're her singing in a way so

you're doing the same scene and then I

mean always you're watching the movie

and like the same scene kind of appears

in different yes and and that that sort

of you know it takes away away the

pressure of you know of performance in a

sense of like you have to be brilliant

today and you have to nail that and I

think that is so wonderful because it

gives you that freedom of really

allowing to be everything that you are

in the moment and not being narrow but

really be open to whatever might happen

in that moment and I think that is what

Terry is really looking for he looks for

you know this moment where where

life happens and where's where you know

people are vulnerable and where you can

really like grasp a certain sense of


and I think that's how he frames you

know he that's how the frame he gives us

in which we then can move and yeah which

makes it so refreshing in a way because

you're not stuck to to the script and

stuck to the lines you can really think

about it yourself and really come up

with your own ideas or do you feel lost

in a way for at least at the beginning

of doing this and then you sort of grow

accustomed to that that being lost and

understand that that's where yeah being

being lost is a part of it yeah that's

also after while you're really looking

for being lost it's it's an advantage to

be yes it's because sureness is also you

know that's life is not always sure you

know like you're you're always a little

bit trembling in moments and not knowing

I remember also you know the take

Durin's is very long when you when you

shoot with Terry it's it's sometimes

like really 30 minutes long or something

and as an actor you know you can for 10

minutes probably you can be interesting

but then you fall into a black hole and

you don't know what to do anymore and

and you would just sit on a bench and

look down the valley and probably be

this is exactly the thing that he was

looking for so lost that's what I mean

is sometimes also very good you know

when you discover when you discover that

maybe the thing he's looking for is you

being lost 10 minutes in did you ever

find herself one minute in trying to

show him that lost thing and she'd a

little bit so you didn't have to go for

that happens but then but then you just

he just keeps keeps filming you and

they're like okay now yeah he does he

knows yeah what is it like when other

actors come on for because the two of

you are shooting with him I mean the

months and months that it takes to shoot

the movie but there are other actors who

should know what four it looks like

maybe a day two days what is it like for

their day or two days are they given

have you do notice that they're given

more specific roles or takes or things

to do that they're they sort of thrown

into the same tornado I think they are

thrown in

and there was this there was just a very

special atmosphere on set in general

there was a it was very concentrated but

playful and very open so I think that

nobody felt threatened like although

you're like sort of nervous of meeting

terrence malick but he just infuses this

certain kind of warmth and includi that

everyone sort of gave himself or herself

into it and then was sort of you know

even though in the beginning you're sort

of stumbling in that you know you don't

really know how to how to do that but

he's so encouraging everyone to you know

you would always say oh that's wonderful

like Terry would always rather give

compliments and criticize and that was

something that I realized watching that

I realized that it's just so much more

helpful because everyone gets like a

strength of out of this and really

starts to you know contribute to the

movie in in the best way and I think

that that that's what happened to all

the other actors to die felt very safe

very fast because Terry was so is always

so encouraging everyone you also feel

within the movie that because of every

as much as as much as made of what he

doesn't use there's also an investor

mount of footage and takes and I feel

like he does use so everything kind of

is wonderful to him it's not like you're

shooting with the directors like oh that

takes sucked let's get a good one in

here like it all in some way is gonna

weave itself into the tapestry of the

movie and it is all wonderful I mean did

you ever find that you would have a

moment where he'd be like that wasn't

that good let's try what not yeah hey

this no no it's not because he also not

thinks in this terms like good and bad

or wrong and right it's he would

probably he would say in my like my case

he was very much keen on the fact that

we we should be very very aware that we

don't want to have a pious farmer who

knows exactly that he is with God and

everybody else is wrong this would be

wrong so he was really saying let's

let's let struggle let's there is a

doubt like um be shy

silent not sure lost like we were

looking for this together really the

same is said for for your character who

in some ways wants to support him but is

in other ways struggling against

everybody in the village and has her own

doubts about about what's happening yeah

exactly for me it was very important to

also showed that side of her that she's

not only too devoted wife you know that

is supporting her husband but that she

is her has her own struggles too but

then in the end which I found was is so

astonishing about her is that she she

never holds a grudge in a way you know

not against him not against her village

which I felt like if I would be in that

situation I would probably be very angry

at to my neighbors or whatever had the

way to treat me but there was something

about also the real character the real