The phrase “the banality of evil” has been tossed around a few times during the last week, once the social network took a glimpse at the purported Twitter account of the 19-year-old suspected in last week’s Boston Marathon bombings.

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The phrase was coined by German political philosopher Hannah Arendt, who made the phrase the subtitle of her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. The book studied the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and examined how it’s possible for people who seem in most respects perfectly ordinary to commit or at least allow morally incorrect actions. In Eichmann’s case, the defense was the infamous maxim “I was only following orders.”

Director Margarethe Von Trotta, one of the brightest talents of the New German Cinema of the ’70s, brings a cool, detached touch to what could’ve been a basic Capote job, with Arendt standing in for Truman Capote and Eichmann for, more or less, Perry Smith. Arendt was a Jew who studied anti-Semitism even as the rise of the Third Reich institutionalized the very attitudes she was examining.

Hannah Arendt‘s own detachment is itself a faithful tribute to a woman whose ideas were criticized in some corners for not being satisfactorily outraged at the Holocaust and for, well, daring to examine the perpetrators as humans, not the Devil incarnate.

It helps that playing Arendt is none other than Fassbinder’s own Lola Barbara Sukowa, and filming the entire proceedings is Holy Motors cinematographer Caroline Champetier. Polished and rational, Hannah Arendt is a confident attraction.

Hannah Arendt plays at St. Anthony Main Theater today at 4:40 p.m.


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(credit: The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul)

(credit: The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul)

Other Highlights: Sunday, April 21

When Day Breaks. The Serbian entry among last year’s hopefuls for the Best Foreign Film. Read Niles Schwartz’s review here. (6:45 p.m., with an additional screening on Saturday, April 20 at 11:15 a.m.)

Koch. A look at the life and times of the recently deceased NYC mayor Ed “How’m I doing?” Koch, who remains a polarizing figure. (12:30 p.m., with an additional screening on Friday, April 26 at 5 p.m.)

The Parade. A wryly comedic look at the state of gay rights in Serbia, where a group of people set out to organize a pride parade despite opposition. (8:45 p.m., with an additional screening on Sunday, April 28 at 1 p.m.)


For the festival schedule, and a complete listing of all the movies being shown, click here. Ticket information is available here.

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Throughout the entirety of the 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, we’ll be spotlighting one notable movie each day, along with other notable screenings. To see the WCCO Movie Blog’s complete coverage on the MSPIFF, click here.

Eric Henderson