Germany, Luxembourg, France, Israel


The film portrays Hannah Arendt (Barbara Sukowa). We experience the intensity of this powerful Jewish woman who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, during the four years (1961 to 1964) that she observes, writes, and endures the reception of her work on the trial of the Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann. When Arendt hears that the Israeli Secret Service has kidnapped Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and brought him to Jerusalem, she is determined to report on the trial. William Shawn (Nicholas Woodeson), the editor of "The New Yorker" magazine, is thrilled, but Arendt's husband, Heinrich Blücher (Axel Milberg), is not so sure. He worries that this encounter will put his beloved Hannah back into what they both call the "dark times." Arendt enters the tense Jerusalem courtroom and quickly realizes that the contrast between his shallow mediocrity and his evil actions is the puzzle that must be solved. Arendt begins to discuss her ground-breaking interpretation, but is warned. Her philosophical approach will only cause confusion. Arendt defends her courageous and original perspective and after two years of intense thought, additional reading, and further debate with her best American friend, Mary McCarthy (Janet McTeer) her German researcher and friend, Lotte Köhler (Julia Jentsch) and constant consultation with Heinrich, she finally delivers her manuscript. The publication of the article in "The New Yorker" provokes an immediate scandal in the U.S., Israel, and soon in the rest of the world.

Director's Statement

The film concentrates on the four turbulent years when the lives of Hannah Arendt and Adolf Eichmann crossed. This focus offered the opportunity to tell a story that would lead to a profound understanding of both the historical and highly emotional impact of this explosive confrontation. When the uncompromising and unconventional thinker faced the submissive and dutiful bureaucrat, both Hannah Arendt and the discourse of the holocaust changed forever. In Eichmann she saw a man whose fatal mixture of obedience and thoughtlessness enabled him to transport millions of people to the gas chambers. Portraying Hannah Arendt almost exclusively during the period which begins with Eichmann's capture and ends shortly after the publication of her book "Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil" made it possible to not only investigate her ground-breaking work, but also reveal her character and her personality. We get to know her as a woman, as a lover, and most important to her, as a friend. It's a film about a person caught between her thoughts and her emotions. We see her as a passionate thinker and professor, as a woman capable of lifelong friendship - she was even hailed as a woman who was "a genius of friendship" - but also as a fighter who courageously defended her ideas and never shied away from any confrontation. But her goal was always to understand. Her signature declaration: "I want to understand" is the phrase that best describes her.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Margarethe von Trotta

Written by: Margarethe von Trotta, Pam Katz

Produced by: Bettina Brokemper, Johannes Rexin

Cinematography: Caroline Champetier

Editing: Bettina Böhler

Production Design: Volker Schäfer

Costume Design: Frauke Firl

Original Score: André Mergenthaler

Sound: Greg Vittore

Cast: Axel Milberg, Janet McTeer, Julia Jentsch, Ulrich Noethen, Michael Degen, Barbara Sukowa

Nominations and Awards

  • European Actress 2013
  • Feature Film Selection 2013