Janet McTeer (left) and Barbara Sukowa deliver powerhouse performances.
HANNAH ARENDT (Margarethe von Trotta) Rating: NNNN
This is one of those rare films that deals convincingly with ideas.
Political theorist Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) was sent by the New Yorker in 1961 to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann, considered an architect of the Nazis' Final Solution. Arendt coined the brilliant phrase "the banality of evil" to describe the fact that Eichmann didn't know how to think and therefore couldn't make moral choices. She also wrote about the Jewish Councils, suggesting that Jewish leaders, by collaborating with the Germans, made the catastrophe worse.
The articles caused a firestorm, which is fascinating to see play out. But the film's essential interest arises from the contention - which von Trotta actually disputes - that Arendt was able to write dispassionately only because she'd repressed the pain of her own experience as a Jew during the Holocaust.
Credit Sukowa with a superb performance as a woman who lost friends as she influenced people, and Janet McTeer is a delight as her loyal friend, writer Mary McCarthy.