Hannah Arendt

Date: June  2013

Release Year: 2012, Director:  Margarethe von Trotta, IMDB Link


I haven’t previously heard about this movie at all, until one of my close friends suggested that we shall see it. I was expecting it to be a boring artsy biographical movie, but it turned out to be much more interesting and awesome than that. Hannah Arendt tells the story of a very remarkable woman, supported by some great acting and tasteful directing. The movie also raises some very interesting philosophical questions regarding the nature of evil and psychological profile of Nazi officers during World War II.

The main character of the movie is the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt (brought to life by an unpretentious yet charismatic performance by Barbara Skowa). She is one of the many whom immigrated to USA to escape from the Nazi nightmare and settled down for a completely new life. The movie focuses on the later period of her life where she is a professor at the University of Chicago at 1960’s. Soon she is invited to attend a public trial at Israel, regarding a German War criminal who was missing since the WWII. The confessions of the Nazi officer and the public opinion on the trial makes a big impression on her and eventually leads her to write a series of articles on the subject and coining the term “Banality of Evil”. The term basically represents the idea that the Nazi officers were not demons summoned form the depths of hell, but mere human beings who lost their power to empathize. The rest of the movie shows the impact of the reception to the article on her life as she is alienated from the Jewish community and is totally misunderstood and severely criticized even by her peers.

What I really liked about Hannah Arendt was how seamlessly it manages to mix philosophical themes within a history lesson regarding how great minds of their time can be completely misunderstood by the people of that time. At that level, movie conveys the ultimate pressure placed upon the main character and how she copes with that through amazing acting skills of Skowa along with some brilliantly written dialogue. Overall tempo of the movie is very slow, thus dialogue plays an important job at keeping audiences attention.

The movie also raises some very interesting questions about the nature of true evil. What makes it remarkable is, these questions are not thrown to your face but rather they are seamlessly integrated to the storyline, sometimes through fragments of dialogues and sometimes through the flashbacks of the main character from her undergraduate years. I found this storytelling technique to be quite effective; by the end of the movie I was motivated enough to conduct a mini-research on Arend’ts life and her contribution to the political philosophy.

Overall, Hannah Arendt is definitely a great movie and one of the most impressive biographical movies I have seen in a long time. If you like dialogue driven movies which questions the norms of the society and politics, you will love this movie. Even if you don’t, the movie is worth watching just to witness the charisma and the courage of this legendary female philosopher.

Definitive Scenes: The transitions between the actual footage and the fictional scenes at the Jerusalem trial, the flashback scenes that depicts the relationship between Hannah and her mentor, the epic speech of Arendt in the end

Score: 9/10

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