Franz Jägerstätter, a peaceful Austrian farmer from the village of Radegund, was 36 years old when he was executed by the Nazis for refusing to swear allegiance to Hitler. A Hidden Life tells his story. On paper, it sounds very much like the stuff of traditional Hollywood biopics, but because the film is directed by Terrence Malick, the story takes on a spiritual dimension that catapults it to a higher emotional plane. The film marks a return—successful, if not wholly triumphant—to scripted drama for the famously intuitive and improvisational writer-director, yet the breathtaking beauty of the landscapes and the intense physicality of the performances—particularly Valerie Pachner as Jägerstätter’s wife Fani—make you feel as though you’re watching a documentary. As the conscientious objector, August Diehl gives us a hero whose Christian faith is inseparable from his political convictions. His journey, while rooted in historical fact, serve as a timeless example of courage in the face of evil. Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz give their final performances.

The Landmark, 10850 Pico Blvd., West L.A.; Fri., Dec. 13, various showtimes; $12-$15; (310) 470-0492,

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