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

63 customer reviews

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(Apr 13, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In 1944, 22-year-old Hannah Senesh parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe with a small group of Jewish volunteers from Palestine. Theirs was the only military rescue mission for Jews that occurred in World War II.

Narrated by Academy Award® winner Joan Allen, the multi-award-winning BLESSED IS THE MATCH follows the remarkable journey of this young Hungarian poet and diarist, paratrooper and resistance fighter. Told through Hannah s letters, diaries, and poems, her mother s memoirs, and the recollections of those who knew and loved her (including two of her fellow parachutists), the film traces her life from her childhood in Budapest to her time in British-controlled Palestine where she was drawn by the Kibbutz Movement that sought to build an independent Jewish state to her daring mission to rescue Jews in her native Hungary.

Both devastating and inspiring, BLESSED IS THE MATCH offers an intimate portrait of a singularly talented, courageous and complex girl who believed that one person could be a flame that burns brightly in even the darkest hours.

This harrowing documentary by director Roberta Grossman is like any meaningful history lesson about the Holocaust: extremely sad to watch but absolutely necessary. Pieced together from Hannah Senesh's letters and poems, and her mother's memoir, this very tragic story is narrated by Joan Allen, which is only the first great thing about this film. Blessed Is the Match tells the tale of national heroine and martyr Hannah Senesh, who embarked on a deadly mission from her kibbutz in Palestine to save Hungarian Jews from extermination. Still photos of Senesh's family are interwoven with interviews with everyone from her nephews to her prison cellmate, Vera Latjai, to her fellow parachutist, Surika Braverman, to Shimon Peres, the president of Israel. A painfully clear picture is painted of how brave and generous this young girl of 22 must have been to have enrolled in the British Army as one of three women who parachuted into Yugoslavia to infiltrate German-occupied Hungary. The film traces her childhood in Budapest, marking important turning points in which Senesh dedicated her life to writing poetry. Even in the first grade, upon the death of her father, this precocious girl dictated elegiac poetry to her grandmother. While many documentaries drag on in childhood sections that feel irrelevant to the larger story, Blessed Is the Match uses this time wisely. Leading up to 1938, when Senesh decides to leave her mother behind for Palestine, one learns how anti-Semitism informed her morality and fortified her dedication to the Jewish people. With more frequency, the voices of Hannah (Meri Roth), mother Catherine (Marcela Nohynkova), and brother Giora (Zdenek Kozakovic) replace the narrator's as the story of Hannah's short time in Europe grows increasingly dire. Moving and still images of the Polish and Hungarian ghettos spliced in here make one feel the urgency of Senesh's mission to save her mother. As letters are read back and forth between them, and the film spends its latter third focusing on their prison time together, there are moments that seem nearly unbearable. However, Hannah Senesh is called Israel's Joan of Arc for a reason. This film honors her having become a symbol of persistence and hope, and in this, many of her simple, yet beautiful patriotic poems are read throughout to strong effect. Blessed Is the Match is a challenging, comprehensive look at the power of the individual and transcends war story to remind one of how caring humans do much to counteract atrocity. --Trinie Dalton

Product Details

  • Actors: Joan Allen
  • Directors: Roberta Grossman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: April 13, 2010
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00366E1AU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,013 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Dallam_94 on June 3, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a fine documentary about one of the most outstanding personalities of the 20th Century, Hannah Senesh. Through the efforts of director Roberta Grossman and producer Marta Kauffman, viewers of "Blessed Is the Match" are offered a rare and long overdue glimpse into the life and experiences of the famed Hungarian-Jewish heroine of World War II. A mix of period footage, never-before seen family photographs and artful reenactments enhance Senesh's story, related here by Historians, Sir Martin Gilbert and Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz; Senesh's nephews, Eitan and David; two of her parachutist colleagues (Reuven Dafni and Surika Bravermann), and several other witnesses from her past, including former schoolmates; members of her Kibbutz, and even fellow inmates who spent time with her in prison before her execution death in 1944.

Hannah Senesh is one of those exceptional human beings - brilliant and brave - who had so much to give to the world, but whose life was extinguished far too soon. Although she was only 23 years-old when she died, Senesh left behind a wealth of writings that reveal a dynamic, keenly intelligent, sensitive and solidly moral character. These documents include letters, a personal diary and a treasure-trove of beautiful and inspiring poetry that has been widely-read and admired throughout the world for decades. Her image has long been shrouded in myth, but the real-life Hannah Senesh was far more intriguing and complex, and her experiences far more compelling, than any myth could hope to portray.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By N. R. Johnson on April 15, 2010
Format: DVD
I was fairly well acquainted with the story of Hannah Senesz and her bravery, but this movie captured it better than I possibly could have imagined. Tears were streaming down my face as the ending credits rolled. The photographs, photography and other images portayed this heroines life in an amazing and captivating way. I highly recommend this film for any type of Holocaust Studies or Women's Studies venue. Extremely well done and a wonderful tribute to a well deserving and often unsung hero.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Gerard D. Launay on July 22, 2010
Format: DVD
A woman, an idealist, a resistance fighter...a cross between Anne Frank and Sophie inspiration to Jews and to others in peril. You must see this film. "Blessed is the Match" is the title of one of Hannah Senesh's last poems. She handed the scrap of paper with the poetry to a member paratrooper in case she did not finish her mission. Like the match itself, SHE is the spark that fires the world from a darkness of misery into a light of goodness and courage.

By way of comparison, another biography of her life can be seen in the VHS "Hanna's War".

Imagine being safe in Palestine, away from the Holocaust, yet deciding to parachute back to the maelstrom to help other Jews. No group of persons...other than the Jews of Palestine...attempted such a rescue. Only 30 Jews had the courage, including 3 women. and one of the three was Hannah Senesh. Even though she did not succeed in her defined military mission, she continued the mission, nonetheless in prison. Here, through her friendship and courage, she offered other imprisoned Jews hope that others might come after her to rescue them from Fascist death. What is the meaning of hope? Hannah Senesh provides an answer - her indomitable spirit is the answer.

I had tears by the end of the film...but some of the salt of my weeping was also the sense of joy in the goodness that still resides in humanity. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."- M. Mead.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mind Mechanic on December 31, 2011
Format: DVD
Hannah Senesh was a hero not only for her people and her country, the Jews and Israel, but for all free men and women, and all who are not but would be. This movie is particularly powerful because it does not shy away from showing pictures of the real Hannah. Rather than making her Hollywood attractive, she is presented as the kind of girl who describes herself as not so attractive but wishes she were. Nevertheless, in spite of a history, a face, and a figure that do not go well with common current understanding of heroes and superheroes, Hannah Senesh was a woman of rare courage, dignity, honor, and pride. She faced the worst the Nazis threw at her, including beatings, maiming, imprisoning her mother and threatening her with death, and months of torture and interrogation. She never gave up her comrades, never gave up the SOE codes, never betrayed herself, her comrades, her people, or her country. She was executed, murdered, as the Russian Red Army entered the suburbs of Budapest, even as the Nazis and the Hungarian fascists grabbed their files and fled. The scenes in the movie of Hannah's body being brought home to Israel in 1950 and presented in State around the country, buried with high honors in a Israel's military cemetery on Mt. Hertzl in Jerusalem, are inspiring and an apt ending for her story. Also the bravery of her mother is presented with the dignity and honor she deserves. An inspiring movie about a time of desperation, misery, and death.
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