Hannah Arendt (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Margarethe von Trotta|
|Produced by||Bettina Brokemper|
|Written by||Margarethe von Trotta
|Music by||André Mergenthaler|
|Edited by||Bettina Böhler|
|Distributed by||NFP Marketing & Distribution (Germany)
Sophie Dulac Distribution (France)
Zeitgeist Films (US)
|Box office||$7,219,785 (worldwide) +
$149,864 (Home Market Performance)
Hannah Arendt is a 2012 German-Luxembourgian-French biographical drama film directed by Margarethe von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa. The film centers in the life of German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt. It is distributed by Zeitgeist Films in the United States, where it opened theatrically on 29 May 2013.
German director von Trotta's film centers on Arendt's response to the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann, which she covered for The New Yorker. Her writing on the trial became controversial for its depiction of both Eichmann and the Jewish councils, and for its introduction of Arendt's now-famous concept of "the banality of evil".
As the film opens Eichmann has been captured in South America. It is revealed that he escaped there via the "rat line" and with forged papers. Arendt, now a professor in New York, volunteers to write about the trial for The New Yorker and is given the assignment. Observing the trial, she is impressed by how ordinary and mediocre Eichmann appears. She had expected someone scary, a monster, and he does not seem to be that. In a cafe conversation in which the Faust story is raised it is mentioned that Eichmann is not in any way a Mephisto (the devil). Returning to New York, Arendt has massive piles of transcripts to go through. Her husband has a brain aneurysm, almost dying, and causing her further delay. She continues to struggle with how Eichmann rationalized his behavior through platitudes about bureaucratic loyalty, and that he was just doing his job. When her material is finally published, it immediately creates enormous controversy, resulting in angry phone calls and a falling out from her old friend, Hans Jonas.
In a night out on the town with her friend, novelist Mary McCarthy, she insists that she is being misunderstood, and her critics who accuse her of "defending" Eichmann have not read her work. McCarthy broaches the subject of Arendt's love relationship many years ago with philosopher Martin Heidegger who had collaborated with the Nazis. Arendt finds herself shunned by many colleagues and former friends. The film closes with a final speech she gives before a group of students, in which she says this trial was about a new type of crime which did not previously exist. A court had to define Eichmann as a man on trial for his deeds. It was not a system or an ideology that was on trial, only a man. But Eichmann was a man who renounced all qualities of personhood, thus showing that great evil is committed by "nobodies" without motives or intentions. This is what she calls "the banality of evil".
The film, which captures Arendt at one of the most pivotal moments of her life and career, also features portrayals of other prominent intellectuals, including philosopher Martin Heidegger, novelist Mary McCarthy and New Yorker editor William Shawn.
- Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt
- Friederike Becht as young Hannah
- Janet McTeer as Mary McCarthy
- Klaus Pohl as Martin Heidegger
- Nicholas Woodeson as William Shawn
- Axel Milberg as Heinrich Blücher
- Julia Jentsch as Lotte Köhler
- Ulrich Noethen as Hans Jonas
- Michael Degen as Kurt Blumenfeld (the character portraying a mix of real Kurt Blumenfeld and Gershom Scholem)
- Victoria Trauttsmansdorf as Charlotte Beradt
- Harvey Friedman as Thomas Miller
- Megan Gay as Francis Wells
- Claire Johnson as Mrs. Serkin
- Gilbert Johnston as Professor Kahn
- Tom Leik as Jonathan Schell
- 2012: Toronto International Film Festival Official Selection 
- 2012: New York Jewish Film Festival Official Selection
- 2013: Lola Award for Best Actress for Barbara Sukowa and Silver Lola for Best Film, Deutscher Filmpreis
- 2013: Guild Film Award-Gold from the Guild of German Art House Cinemas
- 2013: Audience Award for Best Narrative Film, Women + Film Voices Film Festival, Denver
- 2013: Best Actress for Barbara Sukowa, Bavarian Film Awards
- 2013: Best Actress nomination for Barbara Sukowa, European Film Awards
Hannah Arendt makes use of original film footage from the 1961 Eichmann trial, in black & white, as well as the real testimony of survivors and the prosecutor, Gideon Hausner.
Hannah Arendt received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes classified the film as "fresh" giving a 88% approval rating among 66 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.8/10. The site's consensus reads, "Led by a powerful performance from Barbara Sukowa, Hannah Arendt does a commendable job of dramatizing the life of a complex public figure." On Metacritic the film has a score of 69%, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
"Hannah Arendt conveys the glamour, charisma and difficulty of a certain kind of German thought. Ms. Sukowa, compact and energetic and not overly concerned with impersonation, captures Arendt’s fearsome cerebral power, as well as her warmth and, above all, the essential, unappeasable curiosity that drove her.... 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
"To make a film about a thinker is a challenge; to do so in a way that is accessible and gripping is a triumph. Hannah Arendt herself might have been surprised to learn that after fifty years of deadening controversy, it is a film that promises to provoke the serious public debate she sought in publishing her book. -Roger Berkowitz, The Paris Review
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- Weinreich, Regina (26 January 2013). "Hannah Arendt NYJFF Review in the Huffington Post". Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- "A New Movie Perpetuates the Pernicious Myth of Hannah Arendt". Retrieved 30 May 2013.
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- "Hannah Arendt". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- Scott, A.O. (28 May 2013). "How It Looks to Think: Watch Her, 'Hannah Arendt,' With Barbara Sukowa and Janet McTeer". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Berkowitz, Roger. "Lonely Thinking: Hannah Arendt on Film". The Paris Review. Retrieved 6 December 2013.