Hannah Arendt focuses on one of the most important explanations of what exactly happened to the zeitgeist of the average German Joe during the Second World War. Arendt, a Jew, was stripped of her German nationality in 1937 and fled the country to the United States. Here, she established herself as a public thinker, a philosopher of the masses, and in this capacity, she reported for ‘The New Yorker’ in what is still the highly debated trial of one of the Holocaust’s major organizers: Adolf Eichmann.

Arendt described Eichmann as a man suffering from “a lack of imagination” and an “inability to think”, a slightly dimwitted professional leaning on the imagination of his supervisors for guidance, no more a monster than maybe a clown. Even more so, Eichmann posed a particularly difficult paradox: he showed no remorse for his deeds, nor true hatred for his victims or accusers. Eichmann was a product of what Arendt would come to define as a “word-and-thought defying banality of evil”. 

When asked what drew director Margerethe von Trotta to make a film about Arendt, she responded by saying that she, like Arendt, is fuelled by the need to understand. And how simple this may sound, how complicated reality turns out to be.