IN 1961, publisher William Shawn (Nicholas Woodeson) persuaded Jewish philosopher and political theorist Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) to cover Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Israel for “New Yorker” magazine.
The resulting book, “A Report on the Banality of Evil”, forms the template for writer/director Margarethe von Trotta’s intellectually challenging and rewarding film.
There’s enough substance in the film’s reality to constitute a plot where no conventional plot exists. It summarises Eichmann’s actions as the Nazi bureaucrat responsible for arranging the resources necessary for conducting the Holocaust without ever enquiring what happened next.
Hannah’s conclusions about the behaviour of the Jewish leadership in Europe as the Nazis shipped the Jews to concentration camps incurred the wrath of the Israeli establishment, which delayed the translation of her book into Hebrew until quite recently.
The participation of the leading German post-war intelligentsia, together with leading US liberal thinkers and writers, alleviates the film’s potential to lead to ennui and enhances its humanity. It’s often quite amusing.
And it’s worth wondering, as Hannah must have done, as have I, why so few Jews emulated the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto who resisted the Nazi incursions despite knowing the ultimate futility of their resistance. When violent death becomes inevitable, resistance seems to be the better pathway to it.
At Capitol 6
[Photo via Zeitgeist Films]