There is something perhaps a little stagey and mannered in Margarethe von Trotta's film about Hannah Arendt and her experiences in the early 1960s writing her iconic report on the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. At times, in fact, it seems like a radio play with pictures. But for all that, this is an interesting film about ideas, and how explosive they can be. Arendt, played by Barbara Sukowa, is shown being commissioned by the New Yorker to write about the trial. The result was her celebrated coinage "the banality of evil": her epiphany in realising that Eichmann was not a scary monster but a pathetic little pen-pusher. For Arendt, it was in this shabby and insidious mediocrity – emblematic of a nation of administrators obediently carrying out the Holocaust – that true evil resided. But for many in Jewish circles, this was too sophisticated by half: her remarks on perceived Jewish collaboration in the Warsaw ghetto were resented and her association with the philosopher and Nazi associate Martin Heidegger was not forgotten. (Perhaps the nearest dispute in our day was Gitta Sereny's apparent leniency on the subject of Albert Speer.) This is a formal and pedagogic production, but worthwhile nonetheless.
Peter Bradshaw is the Guardian's film critic