Hannah Arendt

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(out of 5)


Margarethe von Trotta has made a career of solid and rewarding Great Women In History movies, and this is among the best of them. gives a career-topping performance as the genius writer and philosopher who in 1960 covered the Eichmann trials in Jerusalem for The New Yorker, an assignment she seeks out and asks to be given. The days she spends observing the Nazi war criminal on trial leave her overwhelmed by both the mediocrity of the man on the stand and the force of retribution being hurled at him by the prosecution: Eichmann, it seems, is on trial for all of World War II, and she thinks this is ironic given that his defense is that he was simply following orders. The article that she eventually publishes is one that nearly ends her career as writer and professor; while she does not, it appears, purposefully mean to throw sympathy Eichmann’s way, she observes in her thesis on the “banality of evil” that more damage has been done to humanity by placid, status-quo henchmen than by villainous architects of destruction. The article is interpreted as a finger pointed at the victims by a self-hating Jew, and leads to a firestorm of controversy which Arendt has to struggle to survive. What von Trotta does extremely well is cover all the conflicts that Arendt has up in the air: her marriage, her friendships, her work as a teacher, her own passion for investigation from all possible angles and her own history as a survivor of Nazi Germany.  Less successful is the technical side of the film; I don’t know why von Trotta thinks no one can clearly see that foreigners are being badly dubbed in English, but the scenes in which co-star , who is exquisite, is also poorly looped tell us that ADR is simply not among this director’s strengths. It seems like a picky point to make, but there are times when this extraordinarily polished drama suddenly feels like a bad television movie you’d be forced to watch on an airplane, and that does disservice to the things that do work so well here. Period details are top of the line, however, and the experience of the film, particularly a firebrand lecture speech that provides for a rousing climax, will hopefully renew awareness among the general public of this very fascinating woman’s work.


Heimatfilm, Amour Fou Luxembourg, MACT Productions, Sophie Dulac Productions, Metro Communications, ARD Degeto Film, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk

Germany2012

Directed by

Screenplay by , Margarethe von Trotta

Cinematography by

Produced by ,

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Film Festivals:  TIFF 2012

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4 thoughts on “Hannah Arendt

  1. There is nothing in Prof Arendt’s Eichmann In Jersusalem that is favorable to the accused, except a demand that he should receive a fair trial. To call the accused “Banal” rather than “Demonic” is an extraordinary departure from conventional wisdom about a mass murdererer and a pivotal central figure, but not the originstor, of Nazi genocide. Eichmann was only a junior officer in the SS. Arendt’s particularly disturbing and frightening measure of E. disturbs because this shoe fits many. Turn around and look behind your back. He may be there, or someone like him who lacks only lacks the opportunity.
    Arendt provides the major insight into the mind and motivation of the vast majority of Nazi murderers. It’s not what we wanted to hear. So, for speaking an unpopular, and for many an unpalatable truth, she has become and is the leading political philosopher of the 20th century. To a large extent she explains why as well as how it happened.

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