It’s been a tough week: the Boston Marathon Bombing on the public stage, and closer to home, the death of a friend, colleague and great scholar, Aristide Zolberg (I will be publishing tributes, including my own, later this week), and a memorial service for my wife’s uncle Ed Gruson.
“Uncle Eddie” was an extraordinary man, sophisticated and warm, a bit of a rascal, but also a man of high moral principle in his private and public affairs (dating back to his marching in Selma, Alabama as a young man). My special relationship with Ed: he was the ideal reader, with a deep commitment to understanding the world, a trained biologist and urban planner, author of the birding book Words for Birds, who read broadly and seriously, with a sense of responsibility. Anticipating the end about a year ago, he gave me his complete collection of the works of Isaiah Berlin. Making sense of the chaos, while thinking about meaningful lives, is a challenge. Ed knew that thinkers like Berlin and Hannah Arendt, thinkers in dark times, to paraphrase Arendt’s most beautiful book, are important guides.
And as it happens, I did have a related treat planned for myself at the end of the grim dark tunnel of a week: off to see a movie, the Arendt biopic. It is a good movie, though it’s far from perfect. It powerfully and accurately depicts passionate thought. That is a real accomplishment, pushing the film form: “filmed thinking.”
As I prepare this post, I read two very good positive reviews, one in the distinguished Der Spiegel, the other in the more bohemian, Bitch Media. They highlight the film’s accomplishments, recognizing the great direction of Margarethe von Trotta and the superb performance of Barbara Sukowa, and they applaud how the film tells the story of the great controversy surrounding Arendt’s writing, her account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann and her invention . . .