MRR Review: "Hannah Arendt"

November 20th, 2013

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Through the magic and power of cinema, the Youngstown Area Jewish Film Festival provides an annual forum, which enriches, educates and entertains our diverse community about the Jewish experience. The Youngstown Area Jewish Film Festival (YAJFF) is presented by the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation and Youngstown State University's Center for Judaic & Holocaust Studies.


"Hannah Arendt"

“Hannah Arendt” is the compelling and controversial biopic by German director Margarethe von Trotta. Hannah Arendt is a German Jew who survived a detention camp, eventually came to America and became a well respected professor and writer. Her celebrity, and eventual infamy, ballooned after the capture and trial of Nazi SS Officer Adolf Eichman.

Hannah was commissioned by ‘The New Yorker’ magazine to go to Israel and report on the controversial trial. She shocked the world, especially the Jewish community, when her report was interpreted as sympathetic to Eichman. She also accused Jewish leaders for cooperating with the Nazi’s and being responsible for the magnitude of the Holocaust. Her reputation never completely recovered, though more intellectual circles have adopted some of her opinions.

Margarethe Von Trotta’s film is as controversial as the source material, though the filmmaker managed to create an enthralling biopic. The film takes an obvious place in the world of Jewish filmmaking, but an argument can also be made for this being a feminist film. Hannah Arendt was as much a pioneer in female free speech and thinking as she was for post Holocaust Jewish empowerment.

A secondary historical milestone that this film captures is the trial of Adolf Eichman. Eichman’s trial was extremely controversial, especially the trials location in Israel instead of Germany. Eichman’s trial was televised around the world and was the inspiration for later courtroom dramas. I was particularly impressed with Von Trotta’s interweaving of stock footage from the actual trial with the studio footage seamlessly in many scenes. 

This film appeals to a wide range of movie lovers. It honors Jewish history, Holocaust survivors, feminists, and historians.

Rating 3.5/5