Lonely Thinking in Film

In one flashback with her teacher and former lover Martin Heidegger, Heidegger tells Arendt, “thinking is a lonely business.” Outside of a few intimates, Arendt is alone throughout the film, accompanied by nothing and no one but her thoughts and her ever-present cigarette. There is a danger that Arendt’s cigarette could become an empty cipher, an obvious symbol. Instead, it lingers there, pulsing with Arendt’s breath, as she remains silent, listening. It is her silent intensity, throughout the film, that strikes the viewer, propels us to think with Arendt about what she is observing and its implications. The audience is thus transformed, moving from observing Arendt to thinking with her. And when Arendt at the end becomes a speaker, her deliberations done, the film climaxes in her speech to students at a small liberal arts college. The seven-minute long monologue, a sort of closing argument in this film’s long accumulation of evidence, is gripping. Arendt concludes: ‘This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which had never been seen before. The manifestation of the wind of thought is not knowledge but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down.’ The full speech is likely the greatest articulation of the importance of thinking that will ever be presented in a film.

Roger Berkowitz "Lonely Thinking: Hannah Arendt on Film," Paris Review - http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/?p=53407