Last week, as I was revisiting the discussion between Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks at the New School*, I remembered my academic crush on The New School as a school in which a lot of my favourite thinkers, writers and artists have taught/teach and whose research I admire.
Her books The Origins of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition are crucial, her take on Rosa Luxembourg is heartwarming and my copy of The Portable Hannah Arendt is tattered with love and much use. The reports she made about the extraordinary trials in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann were so sensational and provoked vital critical thinking about genocide, sovereignty, international law and crimes against humanity.
Yet her complexity and her writing (as a whole) is a formidable influence on my work, thinking and inevitably on the work of people I admire, too.
There is always the threat that, in attempting to funnel their life into a story of 120 minutes within the genre of contemporary filmmaking , it will reduce them to an afterthought and undermine the work they’ve done. Especially as the history of mainstream cinema banks on that kind of entertaining reduction and revisionism: palatable, easily distributable and marketable.
So the film centred around her trip to Israel for the trials, her discussions about the trials and theories of evil, justice and humanity, the writing of those articles and the aftermath of the publishing.
And given that, I think the title should have been Hannah in Jerusalem, or something along those lines – something that was in line with the story and trajectory of the film. By its broad title, it suggests a story about her entirety, or at least the whole of her career.
The film did manage to focus a little on her relationships with students, her work with Karl Jaspers and Youth Aliya and other writers/acedemics at the time, but it primarily focused on her relationship with her bloody husband!
Just like every other biopic about women in the arts and letters.
And, as I mentioned, I appreciated seeing the New School as a kind of character, too – the subplot of their flip-flopping sycophancy and subsequent rejection of their controversial ‘prized lecturer’. Reminiscent of the character of Harvard University in The Social Network, the university and its influence on those who influence is an interesting side-note.
*when i say revisiting, i mean clapping my hands gleefully and yahooing around the house like a madwoman.
* geez – why are all these films just their names? how about ‘zapatista in surrealism’ or ‘in the blue hours’ or ‘the love of in cold blood’. OK, Im terrible with titles, but c’mon – single word names?