Hannah Arendt (2012)

437197_409328_1318Hm… it pains me to say but I honestly think this movie would’ve been so much better if it were done by some contemporary Frank Capra wannabe instead of Margarethe von Trotta. It sounds like blasphemy, I know. Pairing one of the most important 20th century thinkers heavily influenced by maybe the most important philosopher of the same century with Capraesque Hollywood-drama sounds a bit over the top. I bet there are posh intellectual snobs of European origin rolling their eyes to the mere thought of it, but I’m not saying this just for the hell of it. It seems to me that Hannah Arendt doesn’t quite deliver what it should have delivered, and the main reason for that failure is von Trotta’s insistence on distancing herself from the Hollywood biography-drama which has its flaws but has its merits that have been carefully thought out throughout more than a couple of decades. Sometimes, being different just for the sake of being different and just to be clearly classified as European (i.e. opposed to the American populist mainstream) doesn’t quite work out for the best.

vlcsnap-2014-07-18-16h02m41s218 What Hannah Arendt should have delivered then? Well, let’s try to illustrate this. How many of you knew who Hannah Arendt was beforehand? Okay, I can see some of you raising hands so another question is, do you have any background in philosophy or cultural criticism? I know you do. Thing is, Hannah Arendt wasn’t some sort of sports-hero, unimportant to anyone not interested in that particular sport (and God knows too many of these have been put on the big screen), Hannah Arendt and her concept of the banality of Evil is vastly important to anyone, not to mention highly applicable outside the context of Eichmann, Holocaust and World War II. Is this clear from the movie itself? Unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s not just about direction, there’s a fact that neither von Trotta nor Pam Katz can’t write for shit. They chose to give too much importance to the Jews-accomplices controversy, which was overhyped at the least, ignoring the more important aspect of the problem of bureaucracy and its application to modern military and neo-liberal corporatist’s ideologies. There are so many “cryptic” images in this movie which can’t be decoded by anyone outside the “philosophy circles” (for example relation of Martin Heidegger and forest) so that entire thing looks like somewhat hermetical wet-dream of an average philosophy major which (quite expected, being hermetical and all) doesn’t quite care for the concept of communicating with others.

vlcsnap-2014-07-18-16h02m14s201Capra would have done this differently. He would have hammered the main point into your head, and he would have done it with style. Oh, it would have been pathetical but if that’s the only way that the idea of Hannah Arendt and her importance can be communicated in this time and age then there’s no reason to be snobbish about it. Hannah Arendt wanted to distance itself from the tabloid discourse of Hollywood biography-dramas and as far as I can tell, it was a bad choice. Sure, Arendt isn’t what you would call a tabloid material, but leftists need to finally learn how to use the populist discourse to their own benefit. Staying within the mind frame of “if you don’t know who Hannah Arendt is than you should learn” (reflected in the movie in the dialogue between Arendt and her editor from New Yorker) only alienates people and one shouldn’t alienate people from this. What was the importance of the idea of banality of Evil in the context of the Holocaust? The movie doesn’t answer this question and it really should have. Oh, I know that you know the answer, but you, like myself, are not important. Movies shouldn’t be preaching to the quire and Hannah Arendt does exactly that.

Directed by Margarethe von Trotta
Produced by Bettina Brokemper
Written by Margarethe von Trotta
Pam Katz
Starring Barbara Sukowa
Janet McTeer
Klaus Pohl
Nicholas Woodeson
Axel Milberg
Music by André Mergenthaler
Cinematography Caroline Champetier
Edited by Bettina Böhler
Production
company
Heimatfilm
Bayerischer Rundfunk
Westdeutscher Rundfunk

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