German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt was approached by The New Yorker to cover the trial of a Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann. Where most would immediately have condemned Eichmann for atrocities he committed as a Nazi, Arendt was confronted with a mediocre man unable to think about what he was doing. Her critical explanation of the heinous acts of the Nazis, in which she coins the phrase “the banality of evil,” results in an international outrage that alienates her personally and professionally from colleagues and long-time friends.
This gripping drama set in the 1960s follows the philosopher and college professor as she travels from New York to Jerusalem to cover Eichmann’s trial. In English, German, French, Hebrew, and a little Latin, the story reveals her own personal struggle with her experience in the Gurs detention camp, the feeling of betrayal by her mentor, and realization that the man on trial was merely following the orders given him with no thought towards what happened down the line.
For the uninitiated, this film is like taking a 20-foot dive into the deep end of the pool of thought wearing lead weights. Before you realize it, you are in over your head with philosophy and the inner turmoil of a woman standing by her word. Hannah Arendt is such a gripping drama that you really don’t realize how tight you’ve been literally gripping the armrests until the credits roll. Barbara Sukowa’s performance is compelling, and her delivery of Hannah’s public address to her critics is commanding.
Hannah Arendt is a magnificent story about an incredible woman, and to both you will say, “Brava!”
-Review by Leslie Hurst