Help us continue to cover more Australian films and festivals by making a donation to Cinema Australia below.
Strangers to the World
Directed by Grant Fraser
Review by Travis Johnson
The big problem that Strangers to the World faces is that it’s coming to us after the release of A Hidden Life last year. Both cover the life of Austrian Catholic conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, but one is a well-made documentary while the other is a gorgeous tone poem by the premier philosophical filmmaker of his time, Terrence Malick. They’re not even in the same weight class. It’s a damn shame – you wait all day for a bus, and then two show up at once.
Of course, there’s every chance you didn’t see Malick’s film – Terry’s work is not particularly populist. In which case, Strangers to the World is worth your attention. It’s a twofer, in fact, giving not only an account of Jägerstätter’s refusal to join the Wehrmacht and subsequent martyrdom (literally – he’s the Patron Saint of Conscientious Objectors), but also that of Etty Hillesum, the Dutch Jewish diarist who died at Auschwitz in 1943 and whose posthumously published book, An Interrupted Life, is one of the key works of Holocaust literature.
Director Grant Fraser relates their fates with all due somberness, with actors Rachel Griffiths and Oscar Redding portraying the two resisters in the film’s many dramatised reenactments. It’s certainly a timely film: while some are quick to shout “Godwin’s Law!” at any direct comparison it’s difficult not to see the parallels between the events depicted in Strangers to the World and the rising tide of authoritarianism we’re seeing now. For the film’s subjects, the price of resistance was death; it behooves the viewer to ponder which way their personal moral compass points, and what the cvost of following it might be in our own time.