Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt | Chicago Reader

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125 minutes · 2016

Documentary
Philosopher Hannah Arendt was suspicious of any ideology, right wing or left, because of their potential to harm people. Born in 1906, she grew up an assimilated Jew in Germany, though her lack of religious or patriotic fervor distanced her intellectually and politically from other Germans. The persecution of Jews and others that she witnessed under Nazism (she herself was interned in a camp for a while before escaping) informed her landmark analysis of the modus operandi of totalitarianism. But for all her brilliance, many have yet to forgive her for her reporting in Jerusalem on the 1961 war crimes trial of Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann, in which she wrote that he embodied "the banality of evil." Israeli director Ada Ushpiz struggles to present the many layers of Arendt's life in the proper light and mostly succeeds, sticking to her rigorous thought processes while also making them cinematic. In English and subtitled German and Hebrew.

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