From iconoclast to icon, Hannah Arendt was an unyielding political theorist who experienced detention in a wartime prison camp in Europe, but escaped to the US. Von Trotta's film portrays the critical era in the writer's life when she covered the trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt, who had written a landmark study on totalitarianism, noted the 'banality of evil' reflected in Eichmann's burying himself in bureaucratic practice and loyalty to his country. However Arendt noted that this failure or refusal to think, only act, was a pattern of behavior potentially not limited only to the Nazis or that era although wartime Germany took it to fantastic and murderous extremes. The film studies the enormous controversy generated when Arendt discussed in her essays the complicity of some Jewish officials, to this reader wittingly or unwittingly, which contributed to the rise and maintaining of Nazi power.
"under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think." -Hannah Arendt
Played by Barbara Sukowa, the film is a powerful and wrenching emotional study of a woman thinker and writer who struggled to understand to interpret and to analyze the difficulty and deeply rooted reality of power relations in the world. It may not be as rewarding experience as reading her work but it is a fascinating and engaging introduction to a major figure in 20th century philosophy and political theory. A portrait of an interesting woman in a complex time this is easily one of the best international films of the year to be released here and well worth seeing.
In New York City, now playing at the Film Forum. A Zeitgeist film release.
More on the author here http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/arendt.html
Text of The Origins of Totalitarianism
Excerpts from The New Yorker of Arendt's coverage of the Eichmann trial
Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn