09.12.2013 Hannah Arendt, a film by Margarethe von Trotta

Following up from considerations of the chapter on Action from Hanna Arendt’s pivotal text The Human Condition the last reading group of the term will host discussions around the recently released biographical film about the the influential philosopher and political theorist.

The banality of evil is examined in this solid and intelligent account of Arendt’s controversial conclusions on the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Deftly blending low-key drama with archival black-and-white footage of the Nazi’s cross-examination, director Margarethe von Trotta raises thorny questions about complicity and guilt, conclusions which caused outrage when first aired in the pages of the New Yorker. Award-winner Barbara Sukowa is excellently measured in the title role

Mark Kermode, Guardian film Review

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2 Responses to 09.12.2013 Hannah Arendt, a film by Margarethe von Trotta

  1. Peter says:

    I had been reading the third appendix Slavoj Zizek’s the Plague of Fantasies the morning before the reading group and I think it is very relevant to the Arendt film. It’s called “The Unconscious Law: Towards and Ethics Beyond the Good” and it might require a glance at the wikipedia page of Lacanian theory if you’re not up to speed on that terminology but it’s got a very interesting discussion involving Arendt’s views on evil (banal, radical, diabolical?) but placed in context of the bigger philosophical picture of Kant, Hegel etc. It’s the fifth chapter of the appendix which most explicitly involves Arendt.

  2. jfrprice says:

    Further to the film session, here’s the hostile review of Hannah Arendt that discussed:
    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113317/hannah-arendt-film

    Having re-read this after seeing the film, I can’t endorse this review. I think it’s a hatchet job and quite unfair in places. It misquotes the script and twists the point about love (in the film Arendt does not say she can’t love “any people”, in the sense of “anyone at all”, but that she only loves her friends, as opposed to “a people” in the abstract; also she accuses the Isrealis of banning books, not burning them). I also think that the film gives more serious consideration to the critical response than the review gives credit for. Her assertion that the Judenrat allegations are a fact rather than an opinion are directly challenged in the film, and the point is left moot. To me, it’s not simplistically on her side, even if its sympathies are with her overall. It portrays complexity, and certainly her naivety. Her loss of very dear friends over the controversy demonstrates that not all critique is based on uncaring misreadings or prejudicial hostility.

    Having said all that, I think it’s worth reading as a reminder of the ongoing hostility towards Arendt and her legacy, and the live nature of this controversy. It may also make a legitimate historical point about the believability of Eichmann’s denials.

    There’s also a review in the New Yorker itself, and that too is pretty hostile (it’s also longwinded and a critique of Arendt more than the film). Interestingly, Arendt is defended quite strongly in some of the public responses on the website. It seems that whatever view you have of her there are plenty ready to contradict.

    For balance, here’s a more favourable review from the UK:
    http://www.thelondonfilmreview.com/film-review/review-hannah-arendt/

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