Hannah Arendt

Hannah_Arendt_Film_Poster

Margarethe von Trotta’s 2012 film, Hannah Arendt, deals with the writing of Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and the ensuing controversy that it caused. The film is fictional, but it includes actual film footage of Eichmann’s trial. Arendt’s book was controversial because of its notion of the “banality of evil”, which many historians objected to (and still object to). This idea has remained in currency, however, perhaps because it doesn’t seem far-fetched to a generation that grew up under the cloud of a nuclear arms race. The book also angered people because of its criticism of Jewish Leaders in Eastern Europe during World War II.

This film is mostly sympathetic in its portrayal of Arendt (played by Barbara Sukowa), but it does not portray her as flawless. She ignored pleadings that her comments about the Jewish leaders were insensitive and should be left out. (She felt she had to discuss it, because the issue came up during Eichmann’s trial.) Some of the characters accuse her of being arrogant, and the film subtly implies that there was some truth in this.

There is also a sub-plot about Arendt’s relationship with the philosopher, Heidegger, who was once her lover. This part of the film was unsatisfying because Trotta doesn’t seem to know what to say about this aspect of Arendt’s life.

Hannah Arendt is that rare type of film that deals with the life of the mind. It is also interesting portrayal of the German-Jewish emigre community in the U.S. following World War II.

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