A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Thomas Bo Larsen,
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
At a Montréal public grade school, an Algerian immigrant is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom. While helping his students deal with their grief, his own recent loss is revealed.
Although I was not familiar with the name "Hannah Arendt," I was certainly familiar with the phrase "banality of evil" that Arendt coined. However, "banality of evil" is not the phrase she used. The full phrase is "the fearsome, word-and-thought-denying banality of evil." Because, unlike the claims of many accusers who didn't fully understand her, Arendt didn't see a simple bureaucrat in Eichmann during his 1960 trial in Israel. She saw a truly evil man who "spoke like a bureaucrat." Her point being that Eichmann did not speak or seem to think like a genocidal maniac yet he acted like one nevertheless. That is evil cloaked in the banal. This movie revolves around the years of Arendt's life, 1960 to 1963, when she was formulating these ideas and in that, I think the movie probably has it right.
All that said, and these are certainly ideas worth mulling over, this is a film for ideas and for philosophy buffs, not for film buffs. Why do I say this? Because this movie is slow, at least for American audiences. The beginning is confusing. We see a woman in New York but we don't know the date. She speaks German. We see a man get off of a bus heading to "Victoria" in the middle of nowhere. He is promptly kidnapped. We don't know when or where. Eventually, we learn the kidnapped man is Adolph Eichmann who is nabbed by the Mossad in Argentina in 1960. Much of the movie unfolds slowly. This is a film about thinking. It is not about doing much or feeling much. It is an intellectual film.
There's one semi-action scene in the film where a 1950s vehicle corners Arendt on the road where she is walking. Israeli secret agents pour out of the car and threaten Arendt, trying to prevent her from publishing her book about Eichmann. Based on someone knowledgeable, Professor Roger Berkowitz, academic director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College in New York, it appears this scene was invented out of whole cloth to try to give the film at least some suspense. But that's not what this film is about.
It's about thinking and it's about the fearsome, word-and-thought-denying banality of evil and how Hannah Arendt was the first to identify this 20th-century pathology of the human psyche.
Thanks to the Camera Cinema Club in San Jose for showing this film.
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