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Hannah Arendt


Hannah Arendt

Article by Maysoon Elnigoumi
Translated by MM.













By recommendation of a dear friend and an incessant, attractive poster on a wall in Sudan Film Factory, I decided that my first practical application of a downloading lesson given to me by my son, would be to download the movie Hannah Arendt after I had given up on searching for it on Youtube. But, a problem occurred that, later on, appeared to be an opportunity. The movie downloaded without sound due to an incompatibility between the video driver and the source file or any similar gibberish or pretext behind internet exclusive ownership. At the point of despair, I decided to watch the movie without sound by following the subtitles, (I watched it only one time later with sound just out of curiosity!) And, blunt as it may seem as a comment, the experience of the deaf in movie watching must be one of its kind and one that is duly appreciated by any cinematographer.

Hannah Arendt


An earlier movie by filmmaker Margarethe Von Trotta with collaboration from the same actress Barbara Sukowa, tells the story of another European, Jewish thinker: Rosa Luxemburg. The difference between that 1985 movie and Hannah Arendt (2012) is that Von Trotta, in the latter movie, gives up on trying to show the character’s ideas. Rather, she focuses on the ‘state’ and the ‘process’ of thinking. The result is, less lingo!

Rosa Luxemburg

First to note in Hannah Arendt is that it is immersed in warm colors and intimate bursts of lighting. You perceive of emerald green, petroleum blue, deep auburn, blood oranges and sensual plums, peach and lilac-y instead of gray, pearl gray and sugar-hued in place of white (except in the shots displaying the trial of Eichmann)- the movie is fully indulged!
I have seen dialogs with the filmmaker and I think that my interpretation of the movie is totally mine- especially on how she employs Heidegger in the movie which differs from what I will say. But, in my opinion, criticism revolves around reading the text and not the text!)
The filmmaker says she has employed Martin Heidegger to contradict what Arendt says at the end of the movie about the important role of thinking in preventing disasters from happening, which she deduces Eichmann as an example of not thinking. But she brought in Heidegger, a great thinker who supported Nazism, because thinking might fall into the trap of disaster (every thinker has his lapse, as it goes in Arabic.)
In an uncontrolled reading of the introduction to the book End of Philosophy, one of Heidegger’s last writings, hence an excuse for his defective explanation is feasible- he refers to the beginning of the dominance of functional thinking as being concurrent with the era of the development of science and technology. His defective explanation is confined to answering the questions: For what purpose? What benefit? What effect? And for what causes? There is a slice of the movie in which Heidegger tells about a close follow-up by his student Hannah "Thinking does not yield knowledge the way science does. Nor does it produce practical wisdom to the public. It does not solve the riddles of the universe. Thinking does not augment our ability to act. We live because we are living organisms and think because we are thoughtful beings."
This slice is followed by another one in which Hannah discusses with her professor, Heidegger, what he termed "Passionate Thinking" and why they are separated. In as much as I browsed Youtube, most of Hannah’s colleagues suggest that she thought with all that she was. This explains the transcendental thinking of her contemporary thinkers who were quick to condemn Eichmann or needed badly the act of trial and condemnation. It explains to me that meditative, heavy type of thinking that selects its own molds of expression (or that for which language chooses appropriate templates as Heidegger would say). It explains to me those beautiful costumes that were worn by Hannah during the film; the set of pearls and the only silver bracelet and elegant watch. It seems as though the nobility was known by thinking!
It also justifies the warm colors throughout the movie- an expression of delicate, passionate thinking which does not lead to right or wrong but to a kind of depth.


Lighting is not exactly lighting; it is the color of a warm, reddish golden glow. This is the work of French cinematographer Caroline Champetier whose two clips online I have watched. In the first one (above) she argues that the shooting process is in itself a process of thinking generated (at work) -and pertains to the movie.
I am also delighted to observe the greatness of film actress Barbara Sukowa in portraying sharp intelligence through her facial features and glittery eyes but, still keeping something of a tenderness, and intimacy reflected in her slow smile and being able to show the precise, painstaking and serious process of thinking and in the mean time its pleasure. She aptly enacted the maturity and innocence of Hannah. It is not surprising she won the German Lola Prize, the equivalent of the US Academy Award for acting 2013.

Margarethe Von Trotta

I love details in movies. The view from Hannah Arendt’s apartment window caught my attention. It is a beautiful view of New York City lights shining on the river. I thought it was excessive, a hype, the movie’s basic blunder, until I read an analysis of the movie which comments on the community of thinkers who reside in modern apartments in the western upscale areas of New York, overlooking the Hudson river, most of whom university professors, lecturers and some of them are immigrants.
The movie has no music score, no masterpiece because Passionate Thinking is not a sentimental one- there is not any begging of emotions via sobbing violins or drum beating to effect any escalation of excitement. Escalation and excitement depend wholly on the expressions of this beautiful accomplished actress. It is from her eyes that you draw the narrative, the knot, the upsurge and the resolution.


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