HannahArendt GershomScholemKurtBlumenfeld Deathbed Mashup (Margarethe von Trotta)


Did you notice or why should anyone care? In the original exchange of letters with Gershom Scholem, another great German Jew, Arendt’s famously quipped with characteristic bite that she could never love a people, only her friends. The purpose was a polemical parry. In the movie, Arendt is made to speak these words to her dear and dying friend Kurt Blumenfeld. A bitter polemic between two masters of the art is rendered by Margarethe von Torotta into the schmaltz of now unrequited words of intimate tenderness. For cinematic reasons, it must have made sense to streamline the story by not adding Scholem, an additional character, to an already large cast of characters. But why this particular falsification, this bad choice, this less than honest attempt to soften the tooth of Arendt’s acerbic image? It makes what I still think is the awful remark to Scholem more unthinking, and less dramatic (!) than it really was. It’s a testament to Arendt that these things still matter, and to von Trotta for reminding us that they do. About this, at least, one should try to be generous.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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