Hannah Arendt review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
When you start a History degree, as this reviewer did, you are taught to be able to see through bias while also trying to write with the same attention to your own bias. Film’s such as Hannah Arendt, which devote most of its story to the tragic and well known topic of the Holocaust instantly come with that bias but the film follows a character, a real person whose ability to see through horrors and destruction to see the real crimes that took place and how we as a society must transcend them to create a world better than the one our relatives had to endure.
The film follows the true story of Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa), a German jewish philosopher living in Manhattan who decides to attend the trial of nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. When she pens a controversial series of articles for The New Yorker about the trial and the revelations it brought she is met with scorn and praise in equal measure, something she must come to terms with moving forward as friends desert her and critics ridicule her.
What you can see right off the bat is that Hannah is an enviable person, a true hero of free thought, she strives to know more and debate with those that disagree. The film shows a view of the Holocaust that is understandably highly controversial yet it never shies away from the tough questions and neither does Hannah. She is courageous in her conviction to truth, to the furthering of intelligent human thought despite her status as a jew.
The films focus is narrow but the film never feels light or empty with the film throwing things at you thick and fast, investing you in Hannah’s problems, her then radical views and her dynamic and endearing personal life. Sukowa brings Arendt’s charismatic personality to life while never turning to impressions, instead choosing to show her idea of the woman, one devoted to her friends but constantly in search of more understanding of the world we live in.
While you may be happy just watching Sukowa dig into the role the film also has a terrific performance by Janet McTeer as Hannah’s close friend and confidant Mary McCarthy, a smart mouthed literary professor whose dedication to her friends equals that of Hannah. Her connection to Hannah humaises the philosopher while giving the film a much needed dose of comedy as she deals with Hannah’s narrow minded critics with spectacular verve.
The film not only works as a history film, a biopic but also as a judgement on the character and impact of religion and how its control over people is sometimes all encompassing. Clever, emotional and inspirational, this is a film you must see.