Hannah Arendt (2012) – A true biopic

Having shunned many contemporary films to review in favour of traditional “classics” I decided to browse the Netflix catalogue in zealous pursuit of an unknown (to me) pleasant surprise. I found just that and more in the charmingly diligent, provocative and biographical picture of Margarethe von  Trotta’s ‘Hannah Arendt’. The film details a necessary episode of the life of the acclaimed German-Jewish philosopher in which she accepts the challenge of The New Yorker magazine to cover the provocative 1961 trial of Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer and key organiser of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann. In her paper she strictly attempted to modify the discourse of the topic and trial by asserting the notion of “the banality of evil” or as so deftly detailed in the movie, evil without thinking. Arendt, claims that the nature of true evil is so true in totalitarianism because it dehumanizes all responsibility and therefore all action; it becomes evil in itself, evil without thinking. She argues this through the repeated excuse of Eichmann that he was “simply following orders”, and in the film, compares Eichmann to a ghost in his glass case. 

The movie is brilliantly structured so that we can most temporally accept that the fiction and reality are one and the same. What was most brilliantly expressed was the altruism of von Trotta to absolve the attention wholeheartedly from the fact that this is a film and there becomes purely biographical. At no point, does the film shout it’s self-recognition that it is a film at us, but instead becomes a tool for creation and for story-telling. My point here may be tenuous at best, however, many modern films that I have seen in the cinema, especially that are based on true events, do so much as to say, “I AM A MOVIE, AND I WANT TO SELL TICKETS”, this film, although conjured in a particular manner as to be of interest to the viewer, is primarily a creation of pure non-fictional narrative. To give an example of a film which declares it’s cinematic being, would be ARGO. To me, this film lacked the full commitment to the true narrative of history, and in this, fails to do justice to the genuinely thrilling story. 

To summarize, my impression from ‘Hannah Arendt’ is that the modestly provocative piece of cinema deserves its mention in the discourse of modern biographical pictures and too must earmark a page in the turn of philosophical cinema made marketable. For this, I give it a 7.5/10.

@ianmperrin

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