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Hannah Arendt (2012)


J.A.A. Purves
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Why on earth haven't I noticed before that this exists?

Let's work a little on catching the existence of films like this instead of Hot Tub Time Machine 2 or Star Wars: Episode VII or a hundred other franchise films. Not that threads on those films aren't excusable, it's just that some film news is far more intoxicating.

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Don't get your hopes up.

It played at TIFF 2012 (some chatter in that thread, too, I think) but it was a bit muddled.

Of course I find von Trotta's work a little opaque to begin with, but this seemed particularly directionless.

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Thanks, Ken. I was camping out the DVD of this for a class. I will just look elsewhere.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Mike, my opinions sometimes run in the opposite direction of this forum in general, so you might wait for confirmation before abandoning all hope.

Beth R. did share my lukewarm reception of Vision, though, so I'm not totally out on a limb here.

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Mike, my opinions sometimes run in the opposite direction of this forum in general...

I am not sure how to quantify this, but I have experienced this is a few recent threads. I do know that your counter-examples are typically rewarding. I was won over to Queen of Versailles, for example, even though I kind of skipped through it in the screener pile.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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  • 6 months later...

Awfully quiet on this thread. Has anybody else here seen it yet? I'm too busy to make time for it during its Seattle run, but I do what to see it.

Here's my friend Artur writing about it

 

I reluctantly watched the new Arendt biopic. The trailer seemed to offer the same bowdlerized version of history I hated so much in The Lives of Others and Life is Beautiful.

 

Agnieszka Holland is much more up my alley when it comes to dealing with World War II, because she puts all the rough edges of history up front and center, which is what I believe good historical cinema should be about. Her breakthrough biographical film Europa, Europa dealt with so many twists and turns that it drove Lanzmann, the director of the classic documentary Shoah,into hysteric fits.

 

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

That's a nice piece, Jeffrey. The film doesn't really get into forgiveness so much as it does the banality of evil -- an eye-opening concept to many at the time, but something that strikes me as precisely what sin might, and sometimes does, look like. Arendt is heard in the film explicitly rejecting traditional notions of a "sin nature" to explain Nazi atrocities, but it's important to note that she's in error on that point. The film, to its credit, shows Arendt coming to a point of questioning her own judgment re: the banality of evil, but I don't think she properly identifies her error. 

 

That didn't keep me from loving this film. I can't remember the last time a historical drama so pulled me in, so engaged my mind on a philosophical level (it's not my favorite genre, and the more acclaimed titles within it are films I more respect than love). This film, comprised mostly of interior shots of one or two individuals, was gorgeous to watch on the huge screen on which I saw it projected (the aspect ratio is 2.40:1), and despite a pronounced lack of camera movement, I found the film pleasingly cinematic.

 

I was captivated by this film -- its themes, its look and its dazzling lead performance. I'm probably overselling it a bit, but just a bit. I don't think you have to agree with Arendt on all counts (even though the film might want us to) to appreciate what's been done here. 

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 1 month later...

For those who didn't see me post this on Facebook, here's Jonathan Rosenbaum saying he saw this film twice.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 1 month later...

When you all get around to seeing this film, you'll probably want to know more about Arendt. Here's some background -- part of a negative review of the film.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 2 months later...

This is a very good film.  I deeply appreciate that this is a film interested substantively with Arendt’s ideas instead of just using her to tell another melodrama or romance.

How many utterly fascinating things does this film do?
- It gets her take on how great evil can take the form of refusing to think, on how evil can be not malicious but rather simply deliberately close-minded.
- It shows Arendt’s utter contempt for news media controversy or public opinion flare ups based on misunderstanding what she wrote.  She didn’t let it bother her.  It was so unimportant to her that, at most, she considered it a time waster when other friends would bring it up.
- In fact, her refusal to engage with critics who had obviously not read what she wrote is so different from today’s controversies that it is almost surprising.  It seems, if not exactly heroic, then at least a splendid example of temperance and self-restraint ... and seriousness.  (When someone says “the most important part of the controversy,” most likely they are talking about something other than the point.)
- But then the film also shows the pain that comes when friends misunderstand.  It’s pretty rough when someone who knows you is willing to believe what strangers say about you without checking on it first.
- And then there’s the hate mail.  Hate mail should never have the power to affect anyone, but it does.
- It hints at the bankruptcy of Martin Heidegger’s thought, and shows how his affiliation with the Nazis surprised his students and forever affected how they would think of his philosophy.  (Arendt was heavily affected by it.  I’ve read that Leo Strauss changed some of his assumptions because of it.)
- It shows her friendship with Mary McCarthy.  Janet McTeer has fun showing us a little of McCarthy’s wit and sense of humor.
- I hadn’t thought of it before, but it’s interesting how two of the closest people to Arendt (her husband Heinrich and McCarthy) were both sympathetic to communism and yet Arendt shreds communism in her writing.
- Norman Podhoretz has always annoyed me and struck me as arrogant.  But suddenly it was fun to see him portrayed that way in this film.  Watching the sparks fly in a scene with McCarthy was delightful.
- This film also explores a little how the Nuremberg/Eichman trials were something new.  They were essentially trials that forced a discussion about higher normative law - the idea that there has to be a higher law than just man made law.
- Barbara Sukowa encourages you to love Arendt.  The passion she shows on the screen seems very real.  I suspect that Sukowa couldn’t help becoming passionately invested in Arendt’s ideas.
- If Eichman and the Nazis were symptoms of a deeper problem, then their defeat in WWII didn’t solve a philosophical and cultural danger that we still have, even if only lying dormant, today.
- “Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness” ... “The greatest evils in the world are committed by nobodies, even committed without motives or convictions - in a sense, by human beings who are refusing to be persons” ... We could discuss the ideas in this film for a long, long time.  I have some more Arendt reading to do.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, man. 42 minutes and 9 seconds. I can't do all of that right now, but I'm going to watch it soon. All of it. Thanks for pointing it out, Jeremy.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 1 year later...

Very much to the side, but too cool not to share: The Hannah Arendt Collection.

 

It's pdf copies of her personal library. If you ever wanted to know what Arendt's marginalia is on the Nicomachean Ethics, now's your chance.

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