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Movie review: 'Hannah Arendt' finds drama in thinking and typing

Published September 27, 2013 2:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The biographical drama "Hannah Arendt" squeezes some compelling drama out of two of the most uncinematic acts of human behavior: thinking and typing.

The great German actress Barbara Sukowa plays Arendt, the German-Jewish political theorist who covered the 1961 war crimes trial of Nazi official Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker — when she coined the infamous phrase "the banality of evil" to describe his bureaucratic defense of his role in organizing the Holocaust.

The movie follows her through the trial and after, detailing the backlash when she criticized the Israeli government (which kidnapped Eichmann in Argentina to stand trial in Jerusalem) and World War II-era Jewish leaders.

Director Margarethe von Trotta focuses on Arendt's combative personality and her loving marriage to academic Heinrich Blücher (Axel Milberg), and flashes back to the young Arendt (Friederike Becht) and her pre-WWII mentor, the philosopher Martin Heidegger (Klaus Pohl).

Things get quite talky in some clunky exposition scenes, but Sukowa's spirited portrayal of the thoughtful and sometimes haughty Arendt makes it worth wading through the high-minded verbiage.

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'Hannah Arendt'

Opens Friday, Sept. 27, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; not rated, but probably PG-13 for language and descriptions of the Holocaust; in English and in German with subtitles; 112 minutes.