German Jewish philosopher who emigrated to the United States in the early 1940s, Hannah arendt marked his discipline by his reflections on totalitarianism, revolution, culture or even on the notions of good and evil with his Study on the banality of evil, which was written following the trial of SS dignitary Adolf Eichmann in 1961 in Jerusalem and which caused great controversy. It is in this part of the life of the philosopher and her thought that the German director Margarethe von Trotta is interested in delivering a very interesting film both historically and philosophically.
Adolf Eichmann, responsible for the deportation of Jews during World War II, was secretly kidnapped in Argentina and exfiltrated by the Mossad in 1960 to stand trial in Jerusalem. When the trial was announced, Hannah Arendt seized the opportunity by offering the newspaper the New Yorker to cover the event. Opposing the Israeli press, his account of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem and captioned Study on the banality of evil triggers a violent controversy against him, some of his relatives are part-ten.
Meticulous historical work
From a purely historical point of view, the viewer benefits from all the rigor of the German filmmaker. This rigor begins first with the staging of the archive footage of the trial. These images having been shot by a great documentary maker, Leo Hurwitz, so without specifications, they allow an excellent immersion of the spectator in the film. Take, for example, the fact that no actor portrays the accused Eichmann, but it is barely noticeable. Some fictional liberties are obviously taken such as the fact that Hannah Arendt actually only attended a much smaller part of the trial than one thinks - she worked from videos of the trial and not during its presence on site -.
But the film presents a real fidelity of the events and especially of the writings of the philosopher on the trial. In addition, the director draws on multiple correspondences between Hannah Arendt and some of her relatives, present on the screen, such as the feminist Mary McCarthy. Margarethe von Trotta thus delivers to us a film benefiting from an excellent historical work but also admirably delivering the thought of Hannah Arendt.
Film the thought of a philosopher
While flashbacks present other facts from the life of the philosopher, this biopic mainly addresses the trial and the events that followed, a short period but a period when the contradictions were the most violent and therefore the most interesting. Because one of the director's goals is not only to present an episode from Hannah Arendt's life, but also her reflections that sparked such violent controversy against her.
Starting from the trial to arrive at universal considerations on the banality of evil, Hannah Arendt appears to her opponents as a cold and sarcastic person, insensitive to the Shoah and to the sufferings endured by "her people". The trial was broadcast in the United States, sensitizing Jewish youth and causing scandal to raise questions in France about the relationship between the philosopher and Nazism. And in this controversy, one of the great qualities of the film is to remain neutral and open on the various issues raised. The German filmmaker does not take part, she exposes simply and very didactically, perhaps too much, the thought of Hannah Arendt having led to her most read work. However, it should be noted that the part of his study that sparked the controversy is now widely considered false by historiography - it is the responsibility of "leaders" and Jewish councils (Judenräte) who would have by their cooperation contributed to the holocaust -.
Our opinion to conclude
It is not without reason that the present film won several awards at the International History Film Festival in Pessac in 2012. If we can blame Margarethe von Trotta for her very academic achievement and her too strong didacticism, Hannah Arendt nonetheless remains a very good film, benefiting from an efficient and historically very worked scenario, without forgetting the sublime performance of the main actress Barbara Sukowa and as a bonus a little lesson or revision of philosophy.
Hannah Arendt, a film by Margarethe von Trotta, currently in theaters.