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Hannah Arendt (2012)

Not Rated  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  10 January 2013 (Germany)
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A look at the life of philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, who reported for The New Yorker on the war crimes trial of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann.


(screenplay) (as Pam Katz) , (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lotte Köhler
Axel Milberg ...
Heinrich Blücher
Timothy Lone ...
News Speaker
Francis Wells
Jonathan Schell
Student Enrico
Leila Schaus ...
Student Laureen
Thomas Miller
Victoria Trauttmansdorff ...
Charlotte Beradt
Sascha Ley ...
Lore Jonas
Friederike Becht ...


In 1961, the noted German-American philosopher, Hanna Arendt, gets to report on the trial of the notorious Nazi war-criminal, Adolf Eichmann. While observing the legal proceedings, the Holocaust survivor concludes that Eichmann was not a simple monster, but an ordinary man who thoughtlessly buried his conscience through his obedience to the Nazi Regime and its ideology. Arendt's expansion of this idea through her resulting New Yorker articles would create the concept of the "Banality of Evil" that she thought even sucked in some Jewish leaders of the era into unwittingly participating in the Holocaust. The result is a bitter public controversy in which Arendt is accused of blaming the Holocaust's victims. Now, that strong willed intellectual is forced to defend her daringly innovative ideas about moral complexity in a struggle that will exact a heavy personal cost. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

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Biography | Drama


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Release Date:

10 January 2013 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Hana Arent  »

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$31,270 (USA) (31 May 2013)


$714,442 (USA) (1 November 2013)

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[last lines]
Hannah Arendt: The whole world is trying to prove that I'm wrong. And no one sees my real mistake. Evil cannot be both ordinary and radical. Evil is always extreme. Never radical. Good is always deep and radical.
Heinrich Blücher: Would you have covered the trial if you knew what was expecting you?
Hannah Arendt: Yes. I would have covered it. Maybe to learn who my real friends are.
Heinrich Blücher: Kurt was your friend and would have remaind such.
Hannah Arendt: Kurt was my family.
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Missing history from "Hannah Arendt"
16 July 2013 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

The film "Hannah Arendt" depicts an intriguing and contradictory intellectual but avoids examining the political core of the famous controversy it recounts. Arendt stirred a furor with her 1963 writings on the Israeli government's trial in Jerusalem of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann. She characterized Eichmann, who had organized the transport of European Jews to the death camps, as a banal bureaucrat rather than a singular monster. She wrote that European Jewish leaders, too, were responsible, by administering submission to the Nazis when even futile resistance and chaos might have allowed more Jews to survive. The public attacks on Arendt are shown. She was pilloried, particularly by Jewish intellectuals, as an unfeeling Nazi sympathizer and self-hating Jew. The New School's move to fire her is also enacted.

But the film, which shows Arendt as shocked to learn that she has hurt the feelings of many Jews, including long-time friends, does not reveal that she had broken with the Zionist leaders in 1942 when they called for a Jewish state rather than the bi-national Palestine she supported. The Zionists opposed measures to rescue Jews from the Nazis other than those that herded them to Palestine. They claimed, however, that their takeover of Palestine was all about saving Jews from a unique evil -- a claim unchallenged by most liberals as well as the Stalinist left. Arendt's analysis hit the Zionists' guilty conscience and undermined the rationale for their nationalist project. The film ignores these crucial political elements, and presents Arendt's strong defender and friend only as novelist "Mary" without disclosing that Mary McCarthy was an anti-Stalinist and anti-Zionist who called Zionism the "Jewish final solution."

Director Margarethe von Trotta's failure to explore this relevant history leaves her film interesting but superficial when it could have been brave and timely. Arendt's famous topic, thoughtless compliance with evildoers in power, needs our attention today more than ever. Fifty years after the "Banality of Evil" controversy, U.S. liberals and progressives are blindly uncritical of a leader who spies on millions and remotely executes foreigners and citizens in the name of national security. A militarily mighty Zionist state is still free to massacre innocents, shielded by this unquestioned U.S. power and the old sacred cow that Israel is the only safe haven for Jews. Arendt might have had some juicy comments about the "banality of filmmaking."

Rita Freed

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