Review: Hannah Arendt

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 16/03/2014
Hannah Arendt
COMPELLING PERFORMANCE: Barbara Sukowa is excellent as Hannah Arendt.

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HANNAH ARENDT (M)

113 mins

"Israel seizes Nazi chief ", screams The New York Times of May 24, 1960.

With that headline, the capture and impending trial of Adolf Eichmann becomes the talk of the Big Apple's Jewish community.

But while many believe he should have been shot on the spot in Buenos Aires where he was found, philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) would rather he have his day in court.

She volunteers to cover the trial for The New Yorker magazine but almost immediately discovers there are those more interested in vengeance than a fair trial.

Unbowed by any flak she receives (even as the criticism takes its toll on her family and friends) and unperturbed by the sheer weight of transcript material, she sets about arguing that he is no Mephisto, but rather conspicuous in his mediocrity.

A cross between The Reader and Judgment at Nuremberg, writer-director Margarethe von Trotta's (Rosenstrasse) at times ponderous and pontificating drama is boosted by the clever Good Night and Good Luck conceit of only using existing archival footage of Eichmann rather than an actor. That allows the excellent Sukowa (Romance and Cigarettes) to take centre stage as a woman determined to understand one man's role in a dark chapter of human history.

Her Hannah is a compelling presence, at once compassionate but also unafraid to have the courage of her convictions.

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