Hannah Arendt (12A)
by Margarethe von Trotta
Writers: Pam Katz (screenplay), Margarethe von Trotta (screenplay)
Starring Barbara Sukowa, Axel Milberg, Janet McTeer
27th September - 3rd October 2013
This is a film about the German philosopher and political theorist Hannah
Arendt (played by Barbara Sukowa), who was probably more famous for both
her relationship with the famous German philosopher Martin Heidegger and
coining the phrase 'the banality of evil'. She, of course , was notable
in her own right. The film might sound boring, and I wasn't overkeen in
expectation of it. However it was one of the best films I've seen this
It is the early 196Os and Arendt is now middle-aged, living and working
as a philosophy lecturer in New York. She is surrounded by close and long
-term friends, primarily German friends, who had grown together over the
years. They loved dinner parties and political and philosophical arguments.
She is deeply in love with her husband Axel Milberg (Heinrich Blücher)
and is blissfully happy, until she reads of the arrest by Mossad (Israeli
secret service) and the impending trail of the notorious Nazi, Adolf Eichmann.
Arendt applies to go to Israel to cover the trial for the New Yorker magazine,
despite her husband's objections. Arendt, a jew herself, was once imprisoned
by the Nazis but escaped.
She travelled to Isreal to visit an old friend, Kurt Blumenfeld (played
excellently by Michael Degen). We see footage of the original trail of
Eichmann, and Arendt comes to the conclusion that Eichmann was not how
the world portrayed him, as an evil devil-like figure, but a 'mediocre
man', who insists he did not kill anybody - he was only carrying out his
administrative duties. Arendt concludes that not only is the trial a facade,
in its attempts to convict an individual for the crimes of a system, but
that obedience to bureaucracy is in fact mainly responsible for the crimes.This
is when she coined the phrase 'The banality of evil'.
A series of articles were due to be published in the New Yorker, followed
by a book, However, after the first article appeared, all hell broke loose.
Arendt and her publishers are immediately hit by a barrage of objections
and hate letters towards her. Not only does she raise the issue of Eichmann's
'mediocrity' but she also points to the fact that some prominent jewish
leaders also played their role in collaborating with the Nazi system,
by sending poor jews to their death. Arendt, herself a former Zionist,
is hounded to the point were she herself is visited by Mossad and encouraged
to pull her article or else.
Hannah Arendt is an excellent film. The acting is superb from all of
the main characters, notably Barbara Kowalski and Michael Began. The story,
dialogue and drama are compelling. And the willingness of the writer,
director and film-maker to deal with such politically sensitive topics
should be applauded.
It was good to revisit a theme so often simplified, as a fight between
good and evil. I learned a thing or two along the way too. 1) Very few
holocaust survivors actually emigrated to Israel. 2) The Vatican, through
the Red Cross, were paramount in supplying Eichmann with a passport to
flee to Argentina, in an attempt to escape his crimes. At the time they
were offering asylum to leading Nazi war criminals, Eichmann was a catholic.
Go and see it while you have the chance.