It tells the story of Hannah Senesh, a young girl from a well-to-do Jewish family in Budapest, who immigrated to Mandate Period Palestine, and later volunteered to be a paratrooper in the British army in World War II. Hannah was on a mission to save Jews in her native Hungary when she was captured and killed by the Germans and their Hungarian socialist sympathizers.
The film was shot in a documentary style with several dramatizations to help tell the story. Filmmakers used interviews with people who knew Hannah when she was a young girl in Hungary, members of her kibbutz in Israel, and some of her fellow paratroopers. Additionally, the filmmakers were given access to Hannah’s diary and hundreds of unpublished letters and photos in the family archives.
The film gets its title form a poem that Hannah wrote just before she crossed the border into Hungary on her ill-fated mission.
"Blessed is the match consumed in the kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame."
Hannah’s mother, Catherine, was imprisoned in Budapest for some time in the same place as Hannah after her capture. The film is narrated through the perspective of Catherine, whose memoirs of the events adds a dramatic element to the film and helps to offer viewers a different perspective to the traditional story of Hannah Senesh. According to a statement from director Roberta Grossman, “…it is a film unlike any other, not only because of the incredible story of Hannah Senesh, but also because of the experience of Hanna’s mother Catherine, whose raw and revelatory memoirs complement the youthful writings of her daughter and provide the film with its emotional core.”
All of Hannah’s letters, photos, and diary were passed down through the family and are currently held by Hannah’s nephew Eitan Senesh, who described the collection as quite extensive. He said that there were some 1,200 photos, at least 500 of which were taken by Hannah herself in Hungary and various places throughout Palestine of the time. There are also some 200 letters never before seen by the public, mostly sent by Hannah to her family members.
'She was an incredible woman'
Eitan has spent the last several years organizing all of the photos and letters and translating them. He said that all of the new materials, as well as the film, help to tell “the full story of my aunt from childhood until the end.”
According to Eitan, several producers have approached him over the years wanting to do a movie about the Hannah Senesh story. However, he said that “Blessed is the Match” was the first script that looked at her entire life, not just the mission to Hungary. At the premier, Grossman told audience members that she had read Hannah’s diary as a junior high student and always dreamed of doing a movie about it. She then thanked the Senesh family, many of whom were in attendance, for allowing her the opportunity to do so.
Meri Roth, a newcomer to the film industry, plays the part of Hannah in the film. Roth said that it was her history teacher, Dr. Tamar Ketko, who first got her interested in the story of Hannah Senesh some 16 years ago. Ketko assisted the film’s production team and suggested that Roth would make a perfect Hannah Senesh, not only because they were similar in appearance, but also because they shared a similar spirit.
“The role…she (Senesh) was an incredible woman,” Roth said. “Everything was an emotional experience.” Roth also said that she felt herself growing closer to Hannah the more she read her letters and played the part during filming.
“Blessed is the Match” will be appearing on Israel’s Channel 1 some time in November. For information on further screenings and when the DVD will be made available, go to the film’s website at www.blessedisthematch.com.