Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt is named for its subject, a German-Jewish philosopher, lecturer and author who lived in New York from 1941 until she died in 1971. The film covers her being sent to Jerusalem to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann  (the SS officer who was in charge of the logistics of the deportation of  Jews in Eastern Europe to concentration camps) by the New Yorker magazine in 1961 and it covers the personal fallout caused by what she wrote.

There's no shortage of this kind of biographical drama on film. Erin Brockovich springs to mind. So does The Queen. To work well, the life portrayed should be remarkable in some way. It's helpful but not essential if the life portrayed is inspirational or uplifting. Giving an insight into a particular place and time is also helpful.

Hannah Arendt meets these criteria. This particular incident in her life was remarkable because she looked at someone involved in mass murder and didn't see a monster but an ordinary man who did a job. She coined the phrase the banality of evil to describe him doing that job. She wrote about what she saw and thought and was unrepentant when an avalanche of criticism came her way. Her personal resolve and unwavering conviction is inspirational to an extent  - though it's always hard to know if this shows strength of character or pigheadedness. We do get insights - into her marriage (which seemed particularly caring) , her apartment (huge with a view of the river),  her social circle (who seemed communicative, thoughtful and considerate) and into the reaction of the Jewish community at large to her views on Eichmann and the role of Jewish leaders in the efficient deportation of Jews The fact that she herself was Jewish added an extra level of interest.

I felt that the subject of the nature of evil only got as much coverage as was necessary to move the narrative along which was a pity.  I guess if a biographical drama inspires you to read more about the person it portrays or to read their works (listen to their music, or look at their art) then it has done its job, as long as you weren't bored while it was doing it. I wasn't bored but feel I could have been more stimulated.

Anne's rating 2.5/5

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