Journal of Philosophy of Life

An international peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the philosophy of life, death, and nature, supported by the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life, Osaka Prefecture University


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A Woman Like Us?
: On Margarethe von Trotta’s “Hannah Arendt”

Kei Hiruta

Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.4, No.3 (July 2014): 90-98



This essay critically reviews the film “Hannah Arendt” by Margarethe von Trotta. It argues that the generally favourable reception of the biopic crucially depends on the depiction of Arendt as a “woman like us,” or a woman to whom the audience can directly relate. I show that the film portrays the heroine as a woman of integrity with considerable imperfection, who (like many of us) struggles to overcome both internal and external obstacles to become herself. This is an alluring picture. However, it is vulnerable to two major objections. First, the film’s depiction of Arendt ignores much of what her contemporaries said about her. Second, the portrait of Arendt as a woman like us fails to capture her extraordinary qualities: the qualities that separate her from us.

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