Having barely survived and escaped the clutches of a Nazi-ruled Europe, writer and political theorist Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) has an natural interest when a high ranking member of the former Nazi party, Adolf Eichmann (rather hauntingly not played by anyone, instead represented by actual archive footage) is arrested years after the war had finished, and put on trial for his crimes against humanity. Having written one of the most important books on World War Two – namely, The Origins Of Totalitarianism – she convinces The New Yorker to send her to the trial in Jerusalem to cover the event via several articles for the magazine, and culminating in the release of a new book by Arendt.
ealing with some very weighty issues, not to mention some trickily emotional, intellectual and political arguments, Hannah Arendt – both the woman in question and the movie about her- does not shy away from controversy. The conclusions she arrives at after looking 'evil' in the face are not what fellow war survivors, or even the general public, are willing to listen to; that an individual should not be held responsible for the actions of many, and that this evil was not an active expression by Eichmann, merely following orders and laws as they were at that time and in that place. Again, this is some very chewy material, and at the very least will spurn on some heated arguments amongst those new to Arendt's ideas, or send them in the direction of bibliography almost immediately.
ukowa endows Arendt with the necessary strength and prickliness required of the role, and while her relationship with husband Heinrich Blucher (Axel Milberg) feels lived in, both this aspect of the film, and most of the other subplots about Arendt's romantic flashbacks, feel like little more than filler, and distract from the main thesis on offer. There's also an issue of the vast range in quality from the supporting actors, some fantastic, some distractingly terrible.
owever, writer/director Margarethe von Trotta has provided us with a film absolutely filled with food for thought, so if you're looking for something to give both your IQ and EQ a work-out, then this is the movie for you.