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The phrase “banality of evil” has been so abused over the years that it has itself grown banal. But back when Hannah Arendt coined it while covering the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker, it stirred up a controversy. Unfortunately little of that intensity comes through in Margarethe von Trotta’s faithful but dull version of the events, a film that ultimately says more about banality than evil.
Known for historical dramatizations such as the moving “The Promise” (1995) and the wrenching “Marianne and Julianne” (1981), von Trotta excels at bringing to the big screen lived history and its impact on ordinary lives. But when it comes to major figures, such as in “Rosa Luxemburg” (1986), her imagination falters.