Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt at Real Art Ways

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Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt

Forty years after her death, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), one of the 20th century’s most brilliant and influential philosophers, remains a figure of fierce controversy.

A German Jew who fled Europe for New York in 1941, she was the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), Men in Dark Times (1968) and other studies of history, violence, anti-Semitism, revolution, and power. But none were more provocative than Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) in which she coined the phrase, “the banality of evil,” to describe how a man as seemingly insignificant as Eichmann could be responsible for mass murder.

Arendt was pilloried for her criticism of some Jewish leaders (especially Chaim Rumkowski) and criticized for a love affair with her professor, Martin Heidegger, a Nazi supporter.

In this no-holds-barred documentary, Director Ada Ushpiz lets Arendt’s critics have their say, but she also features the woman herself, most dramatically, in a 1964 interview for German television in which she shares fascinating insights into Eichmann: “His inability to speak was connected to his inability to think.”

Rarely has an intellectual, even one as public in her pronouncements as Arendt, incited so much anger, praise, devotion, and scorn.

""Vita Activa" closely examines Arendt's "active life" with the goal of putting us inside her formative experiences, the better to reveal who she was and where her attitudes came from."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"The film works to rescue Arendt and her phrase "the banality of evil" from years of cliché, and largely succeeds."

Farran Smith Nehme, New York Post

"With Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, Israeli filmmaker Ada Ushpiz makes an earnest, impressively researched attempt to distill her subject."

Michelle Orange, Village Voice