Hanna’s War (1988)

Hanna's War (1988)

Taglines: The true story of one woman’s courage against the brutality of the Third Reich.

At the beginning of World War Two a Hungarian Jew living in British Palestine volunteers to parachute behind enemy lines in German-occupied Yugoslavia to save fellow Jews from deportation to Nazi Death Camps. After she enlisted in the British Army she trained in Egypt as a paratrooper for the British Special Operations Executive.

In the Spring of 1944 Hannah and a few colleagues were parachuted into Yugoslavia and joined a partisan group. Despite warnings against venturing into German-occupied Hungary Hannah insisted that she continue her mission. Arrested at the Hungarian border Hannah and her companions are sent to a special prison where she is interrogated under torture. However, Hannah refuses to reveal little more than her name.

Hanna’s War is a 1988 film co-written and directed by Menahem Golan. The film is based on The Diaries Of Hanna Senesh and the biographical novel A Great Wind Cometh by Yoel Palgi. It is a biopic detailing the true story of Hannah Szenes.

Hanna's War (1988)

Film Review for Hanna’s War

“Hanna’s War” (citywide) is the World War II Resistance heroine saga at its most trite and ponderous. As a drama of the Holocaust, it seems all the more synthetic and uninspired in the light of the monumental accomplishments of “Shoah” or “Hotel Terminus.” And its credibility is not helped by its oddly assorted international cast, some of whom speak English hesitantly.

The Hanna of the title is a budding poet and intellectual, Hanna Senesh, a teen-age Hungarian Jew who left her country with the escalation of anti-Semitism in the late ’30s to live on a kibbutz in Palestine. Toward the end of the war, Senesh joined the British Air Force so that she could eventually work in the Resistance in Hungary. Senesh and her comrades were naive and inexperienced, but there’s no questioning Hanna’s courage and the significance of her ultimate fate.

It is said that producer-director Menahem Golan–also its co-writer, with Hollywood veteran Stanley Mann–has wanted to film Hanna’s story for 23 years, and “Hanna’s War” is certainly impassioned. But its telling goes wrong at every turn, starting with its lackluster dialogue. Dutch-born Maruschka Detmers, who made a highly sensual impression in Godard’s “Prenom: Carmen” and Bellochio’s “Devil in the Flesh,” acts all over the place as the headstrong Hanna, yet she never brings her to life.

Hanna's War (1988)

Even though Ellen Burstyn manages an acceptable Hungarian accent, she hasn’t the slightest resemblance to the dark, intense Detmers, and it’s hard to believe she could be Hanna’s mother. Typical of the film’s obviousness is the casting of Donald Pleasence and David Warner as Hanna’s tormentors, and they are not required to do anything more than their overly familiar villain turns. (You do have to give Pleasence credit for working up so much sheer repulsiveness.) Anthony Andrews hams it up in a brief stint as a Scottish squadron leader in the Royal Air Force.

The film, which lasts a punishing 2 1/2 hours, flattens inherent ironies and complexities in Hanna’s story, which deserves a far better film. Nothing helps “Hanna’s War” (whose PG-13 rating is mild, considering the scenes of protracted torture): The cinematography is more ripe than eloquent and the score grandiose in the extreme.

Hanna's War Movie Poster (1988)

Hanna’s War (1988)

Directed by: Menahem Golan
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Maruschka Detmers, Anthony Andrews, Donald Pleasence, David Warner, Vincent Riotta, Christopher Fairbank, Eli Gorenstein, Magda Faluhelyi
Screenplay by: Menahem Golan, Stanley Mann
Cinematography by: Elemér Ragályi
Film Editing by: Alain Jakubowicz, Dory Lubliner
Costume Design by: John Mollo
Set Decoration by: Fred Carter
Art Direction by: Tivadar Bertalan, Michal Japhet, Tibor Nell
Music by: Dov Seltzer
Distributed by: Cannon Films
Release Date: November 23, 1988