Based on pre-trial transcripts of Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 interrogation by the young Israeli police captain Avner Less (here played by Troy Garity), British director Robert Young’s well-intentioned dramatic re-enactment of their encounters is burdened by sepia-period accessorizing, laborious flashbacks, spurious comparisons between the two men’s domestic lives, and the downright bizarre casting of Franka Potente as Less’s ailing wife and Stephen Fry as an Israeli pol who wants the case wrapped up in five minutes or less. Still, Young’s stilted filmmaking is enlivened by a subtly magnetic performance from Thomas Kretschmann, Germany’s go-to guy for sturmführers of all stripes. By turns dreary, wily, self-justifying, frighteningly indifferent, and pathetically sentimental, his Eichmann is shown not as the faceless bureaucrat following orders, but as a proactive administrator of the Final Solution who defied Himmler’s orders to stop the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Whether his sadistic monomania was causally linked to the twisted sexuality Young attributes to him remains an open question. Eichmann is on firmer ground questioning philosopher Hannah Arendt’s contested idea of the “banality of evil,” which she articulated in her book about the trial, and in its insistence—through scenes of Holocaust survivors’ furious protests against a trial for Eichmann—that without democracy and due process, fascism can triumph again.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 10, 2010