Autumn 2013 Features series
Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 4:00pm
Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 7:00pm
Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
Screenplay by Pam Katz and Margarethe von Trotta
Starring Barbara Sukowa , Axel Milberg, and Janet McTeer
Rated PG ·
Germany / Luxembourg / France
German, French, English, Hebrew, and Latin
German director Margarethe von Trotta has long been fascinated by history’s great women, from twelfth-century Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen to Marxist firebrand Rosa Luxemburg. With her newest film, she tackles a crucial episode in the life of another great twentieth-century icon: the German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, as magnificently incarnated by von Trotta’s frequent collaborator, the great Barbara Sukowa (Vision, Rosa Luxemburg).
A former prize pupil (and lover) of philosopher Martin Heidegger, Arendt was already famous in academic circles for her books The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition when she was assigned by The New Yorker in 1961 to travel to Jerusalem and cover the trial of Adolph Eichmann, one of the architects of the Nazis’ genocidal “Final Solution” during World War II. Following the testimony from concentration camp survivors and the pathetic self-exonerations of Eichmann, von Trotta brilliantly dramatizes the process by which Arendt began to formulate what would be her most lasting, and controversial, contribution to contemporary political thought: the “banality of evil”—evil not as diabolical intent but as unthinking, almost offhanded ignorance of the consequences of one’s actions.
Featuring a towering performance by Sukowa, and Janet McTeer (The Woman in Black, Albert Nobbs) in a superb supporting role as her staunchest ally Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt is a stunning historical and human drama. Using footage from the actual Eichmann trial and weaving together an involving narrative that spans three countries, von Trotta turns the often invisible passion of thought into immersive, dramatic cinema.
“I would not hesitate to describe Hannah Arendt as an action movie, though of a more than usually dialectical type. Its climax, in which Arendt defends herself against critics, matches some of the great courtroom scenes in cinema and provides a stirring reminder that the labor of figuring out the world is necessary, difficult and sometimes genuinely heroic.” (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)
“One of the hardest tasks in filmmaking is to make ideas sexy, or at least passably interesting, onscreen. Hannah Arendt is a remarkably successful attempt from heavy-weight German director Margarethe Von Trotta, that does the job of telling us who Hannah Arendt was like a good pair of solid, gray walking shoes; there’s nothing fancy or modern to distract from the portrait of one of the most important thinkers of the century.” (Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter)