Director: Margarethe von Trotta
Writer: Pam Katz, Margarethe von Trotta
Cast: Barbara Sukowa, Axel Milberg, Janet McTeer, Julia Jentsch, Ulrich Noethen, Michael Degen, Nicholas Woodeson, Victoria Trauttmannsdorff, Klaus Pohl
Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) is a successful political theorist, writer and professor. She used to be a student of Heidegger (Klaus Pohl), but had to leave Germany during WW2 and fled to the USA. When she hears of the abduction/arrest of nazi Adolf Eichmann by Israel, she decides to go there to cover the trial. But once there, she is astonished by how utterly normal, and not evil, Eichmann seems to be. This leads to her writing Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. But the notion that nazis might not be the complete monsters doesn’t bring her any friends, and in fact makes her lose some.
I’ve been meaning to read about Hannah Arendt/her work for a while, but I didn’t get around to it yet. So when I heard about the movie, I was very happy at the chance to at least get some information into me that way. And as a first primer, the movie is really excellent.
There are several things I absolutely loved about this film. For one, I loved how Hannah is surrounded by (female) friends. There’s Mary McCarthy (Janet McTeer), and her assistant/surrogate daughter Lotte (Julia Jentsch). Usually when you do get a leading woman in a film, she’s alone in a sea of men. Movies about female friendships are rare and it’s even rarer that they’re done right, so everytime it happens, I am completely blown away. [I’m not saying that men and women can’t be friends or that romantic relationships aren’t great, too. But friends are important and I can only speak from my personal experience that my female friends are a huge fucking corner stone in my life and I would be lost without them and I think it’s incredibly unfair that movies practically never show that, and it’s therefore so amazingly empowering to see it done.]
Plus, we get to see Hannah’s effect on a female student, which just underlines the importance of female professors. I also loved Hannah as a character. Her brittleness, combined with a whole lot of strength, how she holds her own, her intelligence, her directness, the way she discusses things on the content level, even when everybody else is screaming from an emotional level… I have to admit that I did recognize myself in her quite a bit, which is weird but also cool. [And probably sounds way more self-congratulatory than I mean it.]*
The cast was generally pretty good, but both the script and the direction felt a little amateurish from time to time. Which is surprising because Margarethe von Trotta does have quite a bit experience under her belt.
But it didn’t matter much. Because in the end we got a smart, engaging film about a fascinating woman and a fascinating subject matter. And now I really want to learn more about Hannah Arendt.
Summarising: Check it out.
*I’m not one for much identification. But the list of people I identify a lot with now includes: Eleanor Dashwood, Hannah Arendt.