New Film About Hannah Arendt Explores Controversy Surrounding Her “Banality of Evil” Theory (VIDEO)

January 11, 2013 1:59 pm 7 comments

Photo taken during the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Photo: wiki commons.

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:

7 Comments

  • Felix Goldstein

    More than anything else, I was interested to understand who was the audience, who are the people who gem packed the cinema hall, to watch this film, in Vienna.
    Probably they were all pleased to get it over with any heavy consciousness feelings, if these feeling were there to begin with.

  • She was an ASSIMILATED JEW who NEVER STOPPED HER PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH NAZI PHILOSOPHER HEIDEGGER!
    No surprise about what she wrote.

  • It seems to me that the commenters have missed the point of Arendt’s observations, and indeed misunderstand the nature of the actual lives of the most evil of individuals. They are frequently just like the rest of us. They have boring personal lives, unglamorous hobbies, common bad habits, and limited ranges of imagination. They are, in a word, banal individuals leading banal lives. Their evil comes not from any observable dramatic manifestation of their persona, but merely from their internal inability to recognize and restrain the immorality of some of their routine actions. This is in fact the reason that the “banal’ description applies so well to their overall persona. Except for their dedication to killing, they are individuals who are as dull as everyone else. Even murderous psychopaths are more unique, less “banal”.

  • With all due respect to memory of Hannah Arendt, there is nothing banal about Adolph Eichmann or anything or anyone having to do with the Third Reich during the Shoah. Here was a man making it his life’s work at the time to do away with the Jews of Europe. Imagine! Banality? Doing away with an entire religious, cultural, national population dispersed throughout an entire continent in the middle of the twentieth century? Imagine! Banality? Planning meticulously how to accomplish the age-old wish of millions of non-Jews for four millennia to actually and finally exterminate the Jewish people. Imagine! Banality? Knowing, understanding, accepting, encouraging, working feverishly to commit the grandest scandal in human record: genocide of every Jewish man, women, and child. No, no, no! This man Adolph Eichmann did not execute a banal act of evil. On the contrary, this man Adolph Eichmann perpetrated, along with his colleagues of the Wannsee Conference, of January 20, 1942, the most real of all nightmares any group of human being could conjure in real time! Banal, NO! Extraordinarily grotesque, actual and empirical, YES! There is not any surprise that the film is receiving rave reviews in Germany, where the Shoah, the Final Solution, was conceived and initially executed. The germ for the Holocaust is still germinating in its native fatherland in the Neo-Nazi Movement, where as many as between 10,000-25,000 adherents live.

    • Thank you for your comment but she did not ever say that the Holocaust was banal. Her main idea is that Eichmann, “a nobody,” a man who just obeyed orders, is like countless others. Not a monster but someone who follows ordrers, who is “normal.” Kind of like the “good Americans” who don’t lose sleep about their drone attacks on “terrorsist” which kill mostly civilians, like Obama, sitting in his office with his “kill lists.”

    • Felix Goldstein

      I perfectly agree with you. Not only that. But the film does not hint to the extraordinary action to get Eichmann to Israel, (the protagonists in the film even condemn that very action of the Mossad), then it does not develop any arguments as to WHY did Eichmann go into hiding in the first place, and why did he have to be abducted (covered by Argentina and Vatican). The list of so called self hatred jews is long, Judith Buttler is one of them too, I had the honor to participate in Berlin to one of her lectures – mediocre and fanatic – and all I am saying is that such manifestations only play in the hands of those who want to minimalise, in this case to overcome their feeling of… I wouldn’t say “guilt” but their uncomfortable feeling altogether. The movie has, however, nice images of Jerusalem, and does not fall into any cliche.

  • She came up with a phrase to let justify her lust for a Nazi…It is way overdue for her to be exposed..

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz said on Wednesday that he will not eat anything between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday in observation of Yom Kippur, ESPN reported. “If I was playing, I wouldn’t fast, because I’ve got to be able to fuel myself to play,” said the Jewish athlete, who is on short-term leave due to a toe injury. “But it’s not that tough, really. I’ll eat dinner at 5:00 Friday, then I’ll go to services and I’ll just [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.