Hannah Arendt ignited controversies during her life, and many of these controversies continued after her death. Margarethe von Trotta‘s filmed biography catches some of them (like the fascination that turned into a love story between the bright Jewish student and the much elder philosopher Heidegger, a Nazi sympathizer) and focuses on one specifically – Arendt’s coverage of the Eichmann trial and her relationship with fellow Jews, the Jewish state and eventually to her own Jewishness. A precipice separated Hanna Arendt’s views from the one of the Jewish Israelis. Where the survivors in Israel were seeing a process of justice in the name of the millions murdered with no justice of mercy, the American refugee was seeing a public revenge that was not judging the deeds of Eichmann but the wrongs of the system to which he belonged. Let me say that as an Israeli I have little sympathy for her lack of sympathy towards Israel, yet I believe that on the ideas plan Hannah Arendt (the film) makes a convincing case for the humanistic views of Hannah Arendt the philosopher. Unfortunately this does not turn into a good movie.

 

source www.movie-magazin.de

source www.movie-magazin.de

 

The story in the film starts with the kidnapping of Eichmann in Argentina by the agents of Mossad. The next scene introduces the American philosopher of Jewish origin and German culture learning the news and commenting them with her husband in their apartment with a view in New York. She had written a book (maybe even the ultimate book) about the roots of evil, so she must travel to Israel and watch the trial of Eichmann in order to understand and see the instantiation of evil with her own eyes. Arrived in Israel she comes to the realization that the source of the crimes of Eichmann is not in ideology and not in some malady, but in the blind allegiance to rules, and in the refusal to measure the orders he received and his own deeds on a human or moral scale. This brings her in conflict with the greatest majority of her Jewish and Israeli friends, as the gap between the perceptions is immediately obvious. Despite having lived through similar ordeals, her conclusions are different and among all she misses the tribal instinct that brings together people of the same ethnic origin. She loves people and friends, not nations and countries, not even her own.

 

(video source The Match Factory)

 

The problem with Hannah Arendt (the film) is that it is plainly and completely uninteresting film-making. It seldom exceeds the borders of respectful but boring biographical movies. There is only one memorable scene in the film, the one where the philosopher talks to her students and the staff of the university – Barbara Sukowa is passionate and convincing, succeeding to bring on her side not only the audience in the film, but also the viewers in the cinema hall. The rest is full with banal and rhetoric verbiage, a lot of stereotypes, and non-significant domestic intrigue. I wonder if Hannah Arendt, the rebellious philosopher and nonconformist character would have liked this film. I doubt it.