New Hannah Arendt movie released explores 'banality of evil'

A movie has been released on Hannah Arendt's coverage of the Eichmann trial that took place in 1961 in Israel. 


Arendt was the writer who coined the term 'banality of evil', in a discussion of what caused men to oversee and execute the mass murder that was the Holocaust. 

She was sent to cover the trial by the New Yorker. Her series of articles became the basis of the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

t the end of the movie the Arendt character gives a seven minute monologue on the role of thinking and thought in preventing evil choices. This concludes with the following words: "This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which had never been seen before. The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down.”

The Paris Review focused on this end monologue, saying that 'the full speech is likely the greatest articulation of the importance of thinking that will ever be presented in a film.'

The New York Times described this same speech: 'matches some of the great courtroom scenes in cinema and provides a stirring reminder that the labor of figuring out the world is necessary, difficult and sometimes genuinely heroic.'

Here are some further reviews gathered by Film Forum:

“Brought to life by a mesmerizing Barbara Sukowa. William Shawn (is played by) a droll Nicolas Woodeson… Director von Trotta, in a 30-year creative partnership with Sukowa, adds smart, grown-up girl talk about men, marriage, and careers with Arendt’s loyal friend Mary McCarthy (a zingy Janet McTeer).” – Marsha McCreadie, Village Voice

“Barbara Sukowa is magnetic as the great writer and philosopher.  Seems like an impossible subject for film, yet even viewers who have never read a word of her books will be stirred by her intellectual and emotional courage in Sukowa’s award-worthy performance.” – Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter

“The best movie this critic has ever seen about the life and times of a writer. German titan Margarethe von Trotta’s magnificent meditation on the German-Jewish political theorist.”   – Brandon Harris, Filmmaker Magazine

“Sukowa proves a brilliant choice for the philosopher; she ‘does’ stillness about as well as any actress in cinema today, and her mobile face and flashing eyes suggest a powerful intelligence under the surface… The question of the nature of human evil, central to Arendt’s later work, is still with us, and the passage of time and free flow of innocent blood … suggests that Arendt was not wrong.” – George Robinson, The Jewish Week

“An outstanding cinematic portrait. Extremely vivid, thrilling in its every minute, deeply moving in its seriousness and suitably unsettling.” – Elke Schmitter, Der Spiegel