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. 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.
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.
There is really no area of history that holds my attention more than World War II. Whether it’s a big-budget movie or TV series, I’m almost always ready to watch something about that war (and, truly, even just about that time period—it’s all fascinating to me). So when a documentary came along about not only World War II but also about a young Hungarian poet, my attention was doubly rapt. Being half-Hungarian, I’ve always been interested in anything anyone has to tell me about the country and the people from there; while this isn’t the most accurate representation of the times and people over there (the pure usage of English is a bit distracting…not unlike the Tom Cruise Valkyrie movie), it does a solid job for what it’s worth. I know it can’t be hyper-realistic, but hearing “Budapest” pronounced in the more westernized vernacular (as opposed to the more accurate “Budapesht”…although it was referred to as that as well in the documentary, so it was kind of dependent on who was talking at the time) was another thing that just didn’t completely sell the authenticity of this piece. Those elements were far from enough to really ruin the piece for me, but they were just little quirks that dug at me throughout it.
The documentary itself is a mixture of re-enactments as well as old interviews and whatnot. Not unlike an average History Channel documentary, Blessed is the Match takes a slightly less poignant look at the life of Hannah Senesh in that it seems to just run through the bullet points. Granted this wasn’t a biopic, but it was very much like the recent Amelia film with Hilary Swank—a lot of the more specific things that she was known for and less about the actual person. Of course that may have just been a limitation of Senesh’s history—the interview with her mother included in the film is from 1981, so it’s doubtful there was anyone readily available that could really speak about her character. Not that it doesn’t speak volumes through the actions that ultimately led to her death, but the documentary did seem intent to focus solely in on one element of her life and little else. There are interviews with those she jumped with of course, which tell a lot about her character, but these instances just still didn’t really seem to paint a detailed enough picture. Perhaps I was expecting some kind of in-depth A&E biography or something; the film did do justice to her character, but while there was a lot of her character that was talked about, it was all very brief. Granted it was under an hour and a half long, so there was limited time to dwell on anything for any extended period of time, I suppose.
Those qualms with the film are really not enough to keep from watching it though; it may sound like a lot of complaints on my part, but it really is a truly amazing and moving story. It’s just bewilders me that so many stories can possibly come from the World War II-era—you’d think that stories like these would have been something that would be taught in basic high school classes. It’s definitely better late than never when it comes to these things and it’s certainly an amazing thing that docuramafilms has been able to do by spreading these lesser known documentaries around—I’ve learned more from these things than I have from any other medium in years.
This is definitely a documentary that is well worth watching, even if the narration by Joan Allen can get a bit melodramatic and drone-like at times. The music too can become a bit much, but again, these are just minor elements that ultimately are just tiny hindrances to an otherwise amazing story. While this definitely isn’t a perfect documentary in selling the whole authenticity of its tale, it is nonetheless a story that will make you realize just how amazing some of the lesser heard of tales from the war can be. Recommended.
The documentary arrives in a standard DVD amaray case with an insert advertising other docurama films and nothing else. Video and audio are a fine mixture, but seeing as this is a collection of re-created sequences as well as very old interviews, they aren’t going to be the finest example of purity. There is definitely some dirt and noise throughout the documentary, but overall the A/V transfer is clean enough not to hinder your enjoyment of it (which is really all that matters).
Deleted Scenes (5 minutes)
Photo Gallery (2 minutes)
Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes)
Docurama Trailers (four total)
Extras, as you can see, are brief, but the deleted scenes are worth watching as they include some new photos and interviews that actually expand on who she was as a person a bit more, which is something I felt was lacking in the film. Unfortunately they’re all very brief…but still, better than nothing.
Blessed is the Match arrives on DVD on April 13th.