A new biopic on Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt was officially released in Germany this week. The film is receiving rave reviews.
The film revolves around Arendt’s coverage of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961 during which she developed her theory on the “banality of evil.”
Arendt, a philosopher who had a close relationship with German philosopher–and late staunch Nazi advocate Martin Heidegger–before World War 2, was covering the trail for the New Yorker. Like the majority of observers at the trial, she expected Eichmann to be a monster, the manifestation of human evil. Instead, she discovered a bureaucrat – a pen-pushing murderer, whose banality surprised her.
In refusing to demonize Eichmann, many people felt that Arendt was trivializing his heinous crimes. She answered her critics as a philosopher, a thinker, as she had been all her life. Her position was highly controversial. Even old friends and followers distanced themselves from her.
It’s exactly this controversy around which the biopic, entitled “Hannah Arendt,” is focused.
The director of the film, Margarethe von Trotta initially shied away from making it: “How can one describe a philosopher?” Deutsche Welle quotes her as saying. But through further research, the director was swayed. She added: “When such an idea is thrown into your brain, it’s not easy to escape.”
Von Trotta also felt a personal connection to the very Jewish theme of transience. “For a long time I was stateless and I was born in Berlin; for years I only had a foreign passport,” she said. The director only acquired a German passport after her first marriage.
She associates Hannah Arendt with “the ability to live wherever one is blown to, because one is not so attached to one’s own country.” But she also recognizes a contradiction: “I don’t feel like I belong, but I want to understand.”
Watch a trailer for the film below: