Hannah Arendt Screen 22 articles

Hannah Arendt

2012

Hannah Arendt Poster
  • The style is unreflective naturalism, the conflicts are spelled out onscreen as if in large type, and the director, Margarethe von Trotta (who co-wrote the script with Pam Katz), indulges in some facile diagnostics by way of flashbacks to the young Arendt’s affair with Martin Heidegger (played by Klaus Pohl), who is depicted as a cad turned Nazi. The caricatural depiction of early-sixties New York makes “Mad Men” look like a work of neorealism...

  • With its conservative aesthetic and simplistic ideas concerning intellectual inquiry, von Trotta’s stolid movie is as old-fashioned as any ’30s biopic. And despite Barbara Sukowa’s game performance as the crusty philosopher, this is a film destined to please no one: Arendt aficionados will find it hopelessly cartoonish, while everyone else will merely shrug their shoulders.

  • Arendt, through the film’s glamorizing lens, becomes a character impossible not to identify or agree with. From the vantage point of the present, the film makes it hard to see her as anything but right—unable, crucially, to think for ourselves. It leaves one wondering what Arendt the philosopher would think of this cinematic phenomenon—and whether or not she would find it as dangerous a method of storytelling as it has become.

  • Despite a nuanced lead turn by Sukowa, who exudes the requisite thoughtfulness and gravity of a woman who prized thinking as the greatest of all human virtues, Hannah Arendt sometimes seems, narratively speaking, to be on shaky footing. Between intermittent suggestions of covert hanky-panky perpetrated by peripheral players and Hannah’s flashbacks to an affair with her former professor, the film too often feels unfocused.

  • Eschewing any serious consideration of the sustained critical response to Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt prefers hagiography. It is a one-sided argument, so intent on ensuring Arendt’s victory that it adulterates the very nature of the conflict over Eichmann, and over the legacy of Arendt’s thought.

  • It reduces Arendt to a mere victim, a poor woman who was just asking questions. As with her last film with Sukowa, the Hildegard von Bingen biopic “Vision,” “Hannah Arendt” is a reductive, indifferently filmed look at a proto-feminist.

  • Like the dialogue, the prop [Hannah's cigarrette] is there to demonstrate her European worldliness, as well as her famous sociability. We never learn what brand Hannah smokes. Like many of the vignettes that von Trotta uses to bring the philosopher to life, her bad habit is less a concrete detail than a kind of shorthand for the smoldering intensity of her thought and for her ordinary human weaknesses. Its banality highlights the major shortcoming of the film.

  • Hannah Arendt is best when worked up into fits of intellectual sparring that are so sublimely over-the-top, it’s clear von Trotta is having fun... [Yet] It meanders from screwball comedy to strident biopic to historical drama with no central thesis worthy of its philosophical subject.

  • The mix of mediocrity and monstrosity famously led Arendt to coin her “banality of evil” concept, and von Trotta’s use of new and old technology, of the confrontational inquiry of magnified celluloid grain, could be out of Notre musique.

  • The film is refreshingly dry and crisp, and it's as pragmatic as its hero... But von Trotta does indulge some misleading sentimentality of her own by staging events in such a way as to compromise the validity of Arendt's detractors wholesale (they're presented here as prudes straight out of a formulaic censorship fable).

  • Being accused of rationalizing the Third Reich and disowned by Zionist friends doesn’t provide a lot of drama, but the relentless focus on figuring out how we are to think about the Final Solution can be compelling. A movie of one billion cigarettes, Hannah Arendt is about moral reason, not personality. It could do worse than lead you straight to the woman’s books.

  • Arendt is an assured figure, with little, if any, self-doubt. The film shares that assurance; those who disagree are pinched figures who stand little chance against Arendt or her friend Mary McCarthy, played by Janet McTeer as an intellectually jousting Auntie Mame. It’s involving, as biopics go, but the shattering debates that still swirl around Arendt’s view of the Holocaust are relegated to walk-ons.

  • Von Trotta’s film takes a while to get warmed up, expending a fair bit of chit-chatty screen time on Arendt’s complicated marriage to poet and philosopher Heinrich Blücher (Axel Milberg) and her friendship with novelist Mary McCarthy (perfectly realized by Janet McTeer). But once we get to the Eichmann trial and its aftermath, it’s mesmerizing.

  • Pouncing on the chance to cover the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, resulting in her controversial pronouncement about the disparity between "the mediocrity of the man" and "the horror of the deeds," the writer-philosopher Hannah Arendt is brought to life by a mesmerizing Barbara Sukowa in Margarethe von Trotta's film.

  • Hannah Arendt... is just as calculating and smart as its lead character, cutting intermittently between time periods to explore crucial gaps in Arendt's back-story without relying on sentiment. Scenes of silent contemplation are interspersed with intense moments of heated discourse, making this one of the rare films that respects the process of internal struggle while revealing the fallacies of rushed judgment.

  • Von Trotta's film is not so much interested in Arendt's political theories, preferring to view her as the embodiment of the strength and wisdom of the Jewish survivor. It's perhaps a safer way in which to deal with Arendt's legacy, as a fictional account could never do it justice. Still, the film remains true to Arendt's stubborn vision, as it portrays her inner, personal conflicts with a nuanced touch.

  • It seems that through its assumptions of knowledge on the part of the audience, this movie was intended for an elite or German crowd, though its deep adherence to the stodgy conventions of the biopic would argue otherwise. It may be Katz’s inexperience as a screenwriter that led to so many creaky choices... What makes it worth seeking out is the very thing that may have made it seem undramatic in the eyes of its creators—the ideas Arendt formulated about the banality of evil.

  • Arendt, in the film's neatest twist, is the anti-Eichmann, because he refused to think about what he was doing and thereby became less of a monster, whereas she can't stop thinking, even if it makes her a monster... Astonishingly brave and cerebral, though it's kind of a shame that it was made by a director in her 70s; why can't any of my peers make something so unfashionable?

  • Famous for her postulation of “the banality of evil” when she reported on the Adoph Eichmann trial for the New Yorker, Arendt (embodied by Von Trotta regular Barbara Sukowa) comes across as a fascinating figure, a philosopher struggling over questions of morality while teaching, arguing, eating, drinking and pursuing a lovely friendship with, of all people, Mary McCarthy. What a terrific glimpse of intellectual life in New York in the early ’60s.

  • Arriving at a moment when the better part of the motion picture industry is in a mad race to the bottom, “dumbing down” its product as much as it possibly can the better to make the likes of Iron Man 3 rule supreme, Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt is wondrous strange. It’s not simply an intelligent piece of filmmaking—it’s a film about intelligence itself.

  • In this fourth fruitful collaboration with director Margarethe von Trotta (Rosa Luxemburg), Barbara Sukowa delivers a beautifully modulated performance, showing the rigor of Arendt's thought and convictions while revealing the contours of a passionate woman with complex relationships. Evincing an eye for period detail and an admirable sensitivity, von Trotta traces the postwar dilemmas for Jews tasked with looking back at the Shoah, and forward to rebuilding a people.

  • For me, part of the singularity of both Blücher and Arendt (whom I met only briefly, once in their Riverside Drive apartment) was the degree to which art, politics, philosophy, moral seriousness, and a remarkable passion for ethics interfaced in their discourse and lives with an unflagging intensity, and what I cherish most about von Trotta’s movie is the degree to which she — and, above all, Barbara Sukowa as Arendt — capture this.

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