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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. Written by
It sounds a bit awkward to call a film about war and holocaust shocking since many of us will know only too well of the horrors that war and violence brings. By using the adjective 'shocking' I do not intend to imply that I am surprised about the things told about in this film or that I was formerly unaware of them, it is just that I am very much impressed by the way in which this film shows how crazy and incomprehensibly horrific it is to kill each other off, either with or without a 'reason'.
The first part of the film focuses on Hanna's successful participation in the Hungarian resistance. Maruschka Detmers would never have won an Oscar for this performance, due to inconsistent directing, but still her acting is solid enough and she has enormous charisma. She is cast very well as Hanna and immediately has our sympathy. Her very beautiful looks help, of course, but that has nothing to do with her being simply a good actress, playing a good part.
Certain inconsistencies keep occurring in Hanna's War. I sometimes get the idea director Menahem Golan (often despised for The Gianni Versace Murder) was in a rush and should actually have allowed a few more takes per scene. On the other hand, I am very thankful he made this impressive and thought-provoking film and as I am very positive about it, I think he did a good job.
The second half of the film is the most interesting and tragic one. It focuses on Hanna's suffering (beware of Donald Pleasence's scary portrayal of the cruel and sardonic captain Rosza) and intensely shows the injustice and horror that comes with hate and violence and war. I receive Hanna's War, especially the second half, as a strong anti-war film and for that alone Golan deserves credit. It is also this second half in which Maruschka Detmer's talent comes out, creating a character which goes into film history as one of the most speaking, strong and tragic ever portrayed. It is also great to see Ellen Burstyn, whose appearance and acting style always remind me of Romy Schneider, who -had she been alive and cast- would have made a similar effective contribution to Hanna's War.
The tragic impact of the second half and the desperate tension which is sometimes replaced by hopeful prospects and good news lead to a number of final scenes which show something so unexpected, so moving and poetic in its tragedy that it hit me like a bomb and left me in tears. And when I realized once more it wasn't even fiction, it all actually happened, I found myself in even more tears. The image of Hanna portrayed by Maruschka Detmers will be in my mind forever.
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