MONTREAL (Aug. 29)
A warm ovation was given Saturday night to the premiere here of “Hanna’s War,” a film about Hanna Senesh, the young Hungarian-born Jewish woman who was captured and executed by Hungarian Nazis after parachuting into wartime Eastern Europe to try to save the lives of downed British airmen.
About 1,500 spectators attended the screening at this year’s Montreal International Film Festival. They gave a loud applause to the film’s writer and director, Israeli-American producer Menahem Golan, who said he represented not only the United States but the Israeli film industry as well.
The two-and-a-half-hour film depicts the life and death-by-execution of Senesh, the Budapest native who emigrated to Palestine at the age of 17, and who at the age of 22 was sent on a mission by the British Royal Air Force to help British airmen escape out of occupied Europe.
Together with other Jewish volunteers from Palestine, Senesh managed to evade Nazi troops in occupied Yugoslavia and re-enter Hungary, where her mother, Catherine, had managed to avoid deportation.
Senesh was unaware of her mother’s disposition at the time she smuggled herself back to Hungary. She had a personal dream of somehow saving her mother and other Jews to escape the Nazis.
In the film, Hanna is portrayed by Dutch actress Maruschka Detmers. American actress Ellen Burstyn plays Hanna’s mother. Other members of the cast include British actors David Warner, Donald Pleasence and Anthony Andrews.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Golan, whose Cannon Films is based in Los Angeles, said that the Israeli media gave positive marks to his movie. He said the film remains “90 percent true to fact.”
Golan said he refrained from depicting Senesh with her teeth missing after the torture and beatings she received in prison in Budapest. He said he felt the audiences would have recoiled from such vivid portrayal, although biographies of Senesh include this detail.
Several Jewish women were interviewed in the United States for the part, Golan said, but he chose a non-Jew because “I was struck by Maruschka’s serenity and beauty.”