Hannah Arendt (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hannah Arendt
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMargarethe von Trotta
Written by
Produced byBettina Brokemper
CinematographyCaroline Champetier
Edited byBettina Böhler
Music byAndré Mergenthaler
Distributed by
  • NFP Marketing & Distribution (Germany)
  • Sophie Dulac Distribution (France)
Release dates
  • 11 September 2012 (2012-09-11) (TIFF)
  • 10 January 2013 (2013-01-10) (Germany)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
  • Germany
  • Luxembourg
  • France
  • German
  • English
  • French
  • Hebrew
  • Latin
Box office$7.3 million[2]

Hannah Arendt is a 2012 biographical drama film directed by Margarethe von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa. An international co-production from Germany, Luxembourg and France, the film centers on the life of German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt.[3] The film, distributed by Zeitgeist Films in the United States, opened theatrically on 29 May 2013.[4][5]

German director von Trotta's film centers on Arendt's response to the 1961 trial of 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".[6]


As the film opens Eichmann has been captured in Argentina. 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 with 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 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.




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.[13]

Critical response[edit]

Hannah Arendt received mostly positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes classified the film as "fresh" giving an 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."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 69%, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15]

A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: "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." [16]

Roger Berkowitz of The Paris Review wrote: "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." [17]


  1. ^ "Hannah Arendt (12A)". Soda Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  2. ^ "Hannah Arendt (2013)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Hannah Arendt on Zeitgeist Films' Website". Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  4. ^ "Zeitgeist's Acquisition of Hannah Arendt / US Release Date on IMDb news". IMDb. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  5. ^ Siegel, Tatiana. "Hannah Arendt release date info in the Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  6. ^ "Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem". El País. Montevideo. 9 December 2013. (in Spanish)
  7. ^ "Defending the Humanities While Trashing Them". Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  8. ^ Rieff, David (19 November 2013). "Hannah and Her Admirers". The Nation. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Hannah Arendt at the Toronto International Film Festival". Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  10. ^ Young, Deborah (9 September 2012). "Hannah Arendt Toronto Review in the Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Hannah Arendt at the New York Jewish Film Festival". Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  12. ^ Weinreich, Regina (26 January 2013). "Hannah Arendt NYJFF Review in the Huffington Post". Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  13. ^ Austerlitz, Saul (30 May 2013). "A New Movie Perpetuates the Pernicious Myth of Hannah Arendt". The New Republic. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Hannah Arendt (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Hannah Arendt". Metacritic. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Berkowitz, Roger. (30 May 2013). "Lonely Thinking: Hannah Arendt on Film". The Paris Review. Retrieved 6 December 2013.

External links[edit]