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Hannah Arendt [Blu-ray]

Barbara Sukowa , Janet McTeer    Unrated   Blu-ray

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The sublime Barbara Sukowa reteams with Margarethe von Trotta (Vision, Rosa Luxemburg) for her brilliant biopic of influential German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt. Arendt's reporting on the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann in The New Yorker controversial for her portrayal of Eichmann and the Jewish councils introduced her now-famous concept of the banality of evil. Using archival footage of the trial and weaving a narrative that spans three continents, von Trotta beautifully turns the often-invisible passion for thought into immersive, dramatic cinema. Hannah Arendt co-stars Klaus Pohl as philosopher Martin Heidegger, Nicolas Woodeson as New Yorker editor William Shawn, and two-time Oscar Nominee Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) as novelist Mary McCarthy.

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible: Enjoyed every minute Oct. 19 2013
By August Williams - Published on Amazon.com
If you are not interested in philosophy or in grand questions such as, how can humans commit almost unimaginable acts of inhumanity? then you should not bother with this film. You very well might be, as one reviewer wrote, "bored to death." But if questions of this magnitude interest you, then there might not be another author who explores them with more intensity of focus than Hannah Arendt. This film merely skims the surface of her exceedingly complex and often misunderstood philosophical interpretation of Eichmann's crimes. The subject of this film is the social controversy surrounding her initial publications of her theory about Eichmann and the Holocaust. However, the ambition of the film must also be to bring attention to Arendt, one of the most talented philosophers of the twentieth century, and who, like most women of genius, is usually given short shrift in favor of less talented male counterparts. The acting is so perfect that I remained haunted by the characters. There are many other strengths as well: the script, beautifully folding in Arendt's relationships, including her friendship with Mary McCarthy; the sets of her apartment and classroom; the footage of Eichmann. But I think one of the final touches of insight was to have no real ending to the film thereby reminding the audience that the inquiry into the large questions tackled by Arendt will always remain open and unfinished.
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arendt vs. "the banality of evil" Aug. 20 2013
By Paul Allaer - Published on Amazon.com
"Hannah Arendt" (2012 release from Germany; 109 min.) is NOT a biopic of the German "political theorist" Hannah Arendt. Instead, it brings us the story surrounding Hannah Arendt (played by Barbara Sukowa) in 1961 when she is hired by the New Yorker Magazine to cover the trial in Jerusalem of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who was famously abducted by the Israeli secret police in Buenos Aires to stand trial for his crimes/atrocities against the Jews. Arendt soon creates a controversy within her circle of friends, and later, when her articles are published, within the Jewish community at large, with her controversial, yet misunderstood, views on the trial. It was in those articles that Arendt coined the now famous term "the banality of evil".

Several comments: this is another historical drama, say along the lines of the recent "Emperor" movie. But there are differences. First, there is the amazing performance of Barbara Sukowa in the title role. She is simply outstanding. Second, this is directed by the legendary German director Margarethe von Trotta, now in her 70s if you can believe is. (Sukowa and von Trotta have teamed up before.) Third, the movie makes ample use of historical footage of the actual trial of Eichmann, and it is fascinating stuff to watch. Fourth, while there are a number of flashbacks to Arendt's earlier days as a philosophy student and her involvement with professor/philosopher Martin Heidegger (who eventually joined the Nazi party), there remain much more to be said/shown about Arendt (which of course is not the scope of this movie). Fifth, this being set in 1961, people are smoking cigarettes non-stop in virtually every scene of the movie, it is just beyond belief. Lastly, a weakness in the movie is that there is no enough real drama to be felt, even with all the controversies going on, reason that I rate this "only" 4 stars, as I still enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

I saw "Hannah Arendt" a few weekends ago at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati, and the matinee screening I saw this at was surprisingly well attended, tilting heavily towards seniors. Alas, the movie didn't play very long on the big screen (it's already gone). That said, if you are in the mood for a quality foreign movie, or simply interested in the historical context of this topic, I would readily recommend you seek this out, be it in the theatre or on DVD.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Movie about Hannah Arendt Aug. 31 2013
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Making a film about a philosopher presents challenges. Philosophers and the life of reflection are internalized and often require patience and discipline to understand. Movies for a wide audience tend to depend on action. Directed by Margarethe von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa in the title role, "Hannah Arendt" has the famous German-Jewish émigré philosopher as its subject. If understandably slow in places, "Hannah Arendt" is worthwhile. The movie played in an independent theater in Washington, D.C. to appreciative audiences. It is valuable that it will soon available and accessible on DVD, and that the film is now available for review and discussion here on Amazon. The movie is in part in English and in part in German, with subtitles.

Hannah Arendt (1906 -- 1975) studied philosophy in Germany and wrote her dissertation (on St. Augustine) under Karl Jaspers. She became an American citizen in 1950, and taught and wrote widely. In 1961, Arendt covered the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem and wrote what became her most famous book, "Eichmann in Jerusalem" Eichmann in Jerusalem (Penguin Classics) which was and remains highly controversial. The book became known for the term "banality of evil" which Arendt seemed to use to characterize Eichmann's activities.

The movie "Hannah Arendt" focuses upon Arendt's coverage of the Eichmann trial and the controversy her book engendered. Much of the book is set in the rarefied world of the New York City intellectual as Arendt is shown with her dear friend Mary McCarthy (Janet McTeer), her beloved but philandering husband Heinrich (Axel Milberg), and others. There are scenes of Arendt teaching her classes and less effective scenes of the philosopher alone with herself thinking and writing.

Then there are scenes of Eichmann and the trial using original footage. I found these scenes effective. Arendt observes and ponders, less facts than theory and motivation. She studied the trial transcript but did not observe the trial in its entirety.

The movie tries to capture something of Arendt's thoughts, at the inevitable price of over-simplification. It captures well the furor resulting from the book, with some readers thinking that Arendt trivialized Eichmann and perhaps even the Holocaust. The movie includes a ringing scene in which Arendt defends her book before a skeptical university audience.

Flashbacks show Arendt's affair as a young impressionable college student with the famous philosopher Martin Heidegger, married and many years older than Arendt. Many years after she became famous herself, Arendt got back in touch with the aged Heidegger and visited him and his wife.

Arendt's claim about the banality of evil emphasizes the ease with which people can be ensnared. Many today would argue that Arendt said something difficult and important about the "banality of evil" while she misjudged radically the character and deep personal culpability of Eichmann.

"Hanna Arendt" is thoughtful and captures its time and characters, including the chain-smoking philosopher, but it plods at times. It remains a good rare attempt to think about philosophy through film.

Robin Friedman
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As a former student of Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, the Holocaust, theological implications and mass murder: Sept. 25 2013
By Paul D. Harvill - Published on Amazon.com
As a former student of Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, whose expertise regards the Holocaust, the theological implications of the Holocaust, and decades of studying mass murder and genocide, this film was a must see for me.

Fortunately, All Saints Cinema in Tallahassee, Florida, our independent films site, showed the film last weekend and will be again this upcoming weekend (today being Wednesday, September 25th).

The film provided me with a deeper knowledge of Hannah Arendt, the trial, and the aftermath for her professional reputation. Substantial raw footage of the trial was a critical aspect of the film.

Her books include "The Origins of Totalitarianism" (1951). Revised ed.; New York: Schocken, 2004. (Includes all the prefaces and additions from the 1958, 1968, and 1972 editions.); "The Human Condition" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958); "On Revolution" (New York: Viking, 1963); "Men in Dark Times" (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968); "On Violence" Harvest Books (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970). (Also included in Crises of the Republic.); "Life of the Mind", unfinished at her death, Ed. Mary McCarthy, 2 vols. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978). ISBN 0-15-107887-4; "Love and Saint Augustine". [her dissertation] Edited with an Interpretive Essay by Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott and Judith Chelius Scott (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996/1998).

"In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for "The New Yorker", which evolved into "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil" (1963), she coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction. She was sharply critical of the way the trial was conducted in Israel. She also was critical of the way that some Jewish leaders, notably M. C. Rumkowski, acted during the Holocaust. This caused a considerable controversy and even animosity toward Arendt in the Jewish community. Her friend Gershom Scholem, a major scholar of Jewish mysticism, broke off relations with her. Arendt was criticized by many Jewish public figures, who charged her with coldness and lack of sympathy for the victims of the Shoah, also known as the Holocaust.

"Due to this lingering criticism, her book has only recently been translated into Hebrew. Arendt ended the book by writing:

'Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations -- as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world -- we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.' "

Thank you to Wikipedia. And I refer the reader to begin learning more about Hannah Arendt through Wikipedia and the rest of the Internet. As well as, of course, the film; her books and articles; and those about her.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy With A Hammer Oct. 28 2013
By cvairag - Published on Amazon.com
I saw the film's U.S. debut at the Santa Barbara Film Festival last year. It's a masterpiece. Sorry to disappoint the critics, but like 90% of the audience you didn't understand it. True , Hannah in the flick - a bit sexier than in real life - I lived in the Village at the time. And Mary McCarthy - a lot less - in life, she used her astounding beauty to intimidate men. But if you want to find out what Philosophy is about - see this film. Having taught the subject for a decade and a half, that's my opinion anyway. The film also explains the concept of "the banality of evil" - on which perceived truth Ms. Arendt staked her career - as well any document short of Eichmann In Jerusalem itself.

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