Ride of her life: Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) rides the Egged bus to Jerusalem to cover the Eichmann trial
"So," the motherly brunette asks conspiratorially, a billiard cue slung below her arm, "Was he the greatest love of your life?"
No, it's not a scene from the latest chick flick; it's from Hannah Arendt, Margarethe von Trotta's new biopic about the German-Jewish political theorist. The questioner is the American critic and novelist Mary McCarthy, and she is referring to none other than Martin Heidegger, the controversial Nazi-aligned philosopher. The film's central plotline follows Arendt's coverage of the 1961 Eichmann trial and its aftermath. Particular attention is given to disputes about the "banality of evil" — Arendt's notorious thesis intended to explain why the Nazi leader took care of the trains while letting the categorical imperative run on empty. But Geschichtsphilosophie this ain't.
Part of the problem is that the film leans heavily on the correspondence between Arendt and McCarthy: long stretches of dialogue are taken verbatim from their letters and recast as verbal exchanges. This is curious, for in recent years more information has become available on the Eichmann trial and especially Arendt's perspective on it than ever before. So why is von Trotta relying largely on the chatty, theatrical exchanges of McCarthy and Arendt for her source material?
Both Arendt and McCarthy are the subject of seemingly endless fascination and study. And no wonder: they led extraordinary lives. McCarthy, born in Seattle in 1912, became a famously cutting wit among the Partisan Review crowd. Arendt, born in Hanover in 1918, studied under (pun sadly intended) Heidegger and went on to write her dissertation with Karl Jaspers. Arendt's topic was love: specifically, the idea of love in Augustine. McCarthy's topic was sex: her taboo-busting, bestselling novel The Group included frank treatments of lesbianism, birth control, and sex from the woman's point of view.
- The Coalition We Need To Defeat Islamism
- Are We Losing The War On Home-Grown Terror?
- Cameron Gave Libyans A Chance. Pity They Blew It
- Brexit Will Give Global Free Trade A Boost
- The Real EU Referendum Winner May Surprise You
- Is Theresa May The True Heir To Mrs Thatcher?
- Race To The White House Through The Looking-Glass
- Brexit Gives Us A Historic Opportunity
- American Conservatives Must Stand Up To Trump
- Cicero's Analysis Of Decline Offers Lessons For The West
- Deepdene: Rise and Fall of the House of Hope
- Debunking the EU Referendum Myths
- Britain's Opportunity Is Europe's Warning
- Controlling Immigration Is Good For Democracy
- The Pied Piper of Islington
- The West Cannot Afford To Ditch Nato
- End Of History — Or Clash Of Civilisations?
- We Can Defeat Islamist Terror — But Not On Our Own
- Without the Emperor, What is Left of Old Japan?
- Now Or Never