More than once Arendt denied being a public figure and added that she did not entertain any “ambition to become one.” This poses a challenge to any filmmaker seeking to portray her character, as Margarethe von Trotta found when she contradicted Arendt’s self-perception to inquire who was this public figure at the center of one of the most important political-intellectual controversies of the twentieth century. Von Trotta’s cinematic inquiry is in some ways justified by Arendt’s insights into how the who is revealed to others. Hannah Arendt gives us an opportunity to follow Arendt while thinking and to reconfigure this activity with or against Arendt. The challenge of depicting thinking is one that Pamela Katz, the screenwriter, and Margarethe von Trotta, the director, confronted in the making of the film. Had they followed Arendt’s own arguments about herself and about the invisibility of thinking, the making of a film about her would have amounted to a dark screen most of the time. Cinematic portrayal enhances the intrusive quality inherent in human relationships: being with others is always also watching and observing them, as well as memorizing how they are revealed to us, which is often different from how they intend to appear.

You do not currently have access to this content.