Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (2009)



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The meteoric emotional and intellectual development of Hungarian Jewish poet Hannah Senesh coincided neatly with the rapid-fire rise of anti-Semitic racial hostilities throughout Europe during WWII -- thus predestining Hannah for the life and role of a resistance fighter. The attempt that Hannah made to rescue Jews from the grim jaws of the Holocaust may have ultimately proven unsuccessful, but projected astounding nobility, fortitude, and self-sacrifice, and marked one of the only external rescue efforts of its kind mounted specifically for Hungarian Jews. An emigrant to Palestine, Senesh joined a British resistance force known as the Special Operations Executive, or SOE (which trained her as a parachutist), then helped devise a plot to parachute into Yugoslavia and deliver the Jews prior to the pending German occupation. Tragically, when Senesh and two male colleagues reached Yugoslavia, they learned that the Germans had already arrived in Bucharest, prompting the other two to turn back. Senesh marched on unabated, however, and ultimately fell prey to repeated torture and murder at the hands of the Nazis. As narrated by Oscar nominee Joan Allen, Blessed Is the Match marks the first documentary to relay Senesh's story for the sake of posterity. It blends dramatic reenactments featuring actresses Marcela Nohynkova and Meri Roth with recitations from Senesh's letters to her mother, interviews with the other parachutists and with kibbutz members, and a discussion with historian Sir Martin Gilbert -- which collectively etch out a portrait of an indomitable spirit with unfathomable courage.
Documentary , Drama
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Joan Allen
as Narrator
Meri Roth
as Hannah Senesh
Marcela Nohynkova
as Catherine Senesh
Zdenek Kozakovic
as Giora Senesh
Zdenek Astr
as Capt. Simon
Jindrich Hinke
as Interrogator Rozsa
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (8)

Intent on seeing Senesh as a symbol of hope and resistance, Blessed Is the Match is content to focus on the tragic legend that her life became.

Full Review… | February 6, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Roberta Grossman's film is an ungainly hybrid of straight-up documentary and ingenuous re-enactment.

Full Review… | February 5, 2009
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

Blessed Is the Match tells us just about everything we might want to know about her -- except why she did what she did.

Full Review… | January 30, 2009
New York Post
Top Critic

In a way, the dry tone fits.

Full Review… | January 30, 2009
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Grossman has a robust story to tell, and she's found remarkable World War II footage to help her tell it.

Full Review… | January 30, 2009
Top Critic

Roberta Grossman's Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh documents courage, but steers clear of character.

January 27, 2009
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh

A compelling documentary that told the story of Hannah Senesh, a young, idealistic Jewish woman and poet who returns to Hungary from Israel in the final days of WWII, to help her people escape from Hitler's Final Solution. In many ways, her story was similar to many others. "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" comes to mind, but each story is unique and bears telling. In this, the filmmakers wove archival footage with historical still photos and live action recreations of the events in her courageous, but somehow foolhardy, life. The tale it tells is fairly accurate because Hannah was a dedicated diarist who left a detailed record of how she wound up where she did. The tragedy, for me, is that she sacrificed her own young life; but in doing so she caused her mother to come to the attention of the authorities. That selfless action may have resulted in her mother surviving when so many others were shipped off to the death camps. I found this very moving, although it really had nothing new to say, except to remind us that there were many heroes of that period whose stories have yet to be told. I am glad I now know hers.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

"Blessed Is the Match" is a partially rewarding documentary about the life and times of Hannah Senesh who was raised in Budapest before emigrating to Palestine, like many other Jews in the years before World War II. It is there that she volunteers for a military mission to parachute behind enemy lines where she died at the age of 22. Even though the objectives of her mission were not achieved, the documentary points out that it was at least successful in giving hope to Hungarian Jews through a growing sense of Jewish nationalism, just as the Holocaust was becoming reality there. It is curious that the most pertinent information comes from background material. At the same time, I don't think we really get to know Hannah, with the emotional highlights coming from the testimony of survivors. Since a lot of the documentary is made up of dramatizations, it stands to reason that a more effective approach in telling the story of her life might have been a feature film.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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