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A compelling , altogether human adaptation of Anne Frank's diary
on November 5, 2009
This latest adaptation of "The Diary of Anne Frank" is by the BBC (released in 2008, total running time is 150 mins). The screenplay is by Deborah Moggach, and is directed by Jon Jones. This adaptation is the most faithful to Anne's "Diary of a Young Girl", reflecting the maturing of a young girl under harrowing circumstances, and exploring all her feelings and emotions in a credible manner.
The film stars Ellie Kendrick as Anna Frank, a feisty 13-year-old Jewish girl who finds her world turned upside down when the Nazis invade Holland in 1942. When her older sister, 16-year-old Margot (Felicity Jones) receives a summons from the Nazis to report for deportation, the Frank family, including father Otto (Iain Glen) and mother Edith (Tamsin Grieg) go into hiding in a Secret Annex above Otto's office. They are helped by a group of loyal Gentile friends, namely Miep Gies (Kate Ashfield), Mr Kleiman (Roger Frost), Mr Kugler (Tim Dantay), and Bep Voskuijl (Mariah Gale). The Franks are later joined by the Van Daans, comprising father Hermann (Ron Cook), mother Petronella (Lesley Sharp), and son Peter (Geoff Breton), and soon after by dentist Albert Dussell (Nicholas Farrell).
Living under such constraints puts a lot of stress on the occupants of the Secret Annex, and the story unfolds through Anne's observations (told partly through voiceovers) as the real Anne Frank had made these observations about her life in hiding in her beloved diary. Anne's chafing under the restrictions of living in hiding is credibly portrayed here(especially the conflicts with Mrs Van Daan and Dussell), as is her adolescent angst which comes across most clearly in her tense relationship with her mother, whom Anne felt did not truly understand her, in contrast to her beloved Pim/Dad whom Anne was very close to. The budding romance between Anne and Peter Van Daan is also explored with a great degree of sensitivity, and it is amazing to see these adolescents manage to connect on an intimate level, despite the harrowing circumstances they find themselves in. Anne's heartfelt conversation with her father is one of the most poignant scenes here and Anne's reflections on her parent's marriage is very insightful, especially from one so young. Ellie Kendrick delivers a finely nuanced performance as the adolescent Anne who harbors so many desires and ambitions, hopes for an unfettered and normal life, and the yearnings of a teenage girl. Her intimate observations regarding her body's cycle and all that it signifies are altogether poignant and heartrending to watch.
The sense of fear and danger is palpable from the first moments, and pervades the show. But there are also light-hearted moments to offset the bleak atmosphere, as when Mrs Van Daan refuses to eat cabbage because it gives her gas, and the comical teeth-pulling scene involving a certain fuss-pot and the dentist. But, knowing their final fate (as anyone who is familiar with Anne Frank's story will know) makes this a heartrending watch indeed. This series ends with Anne, her family, the Van Daans and Dussell being led away by the authorities after their hiding place was discovered (they were betrayed, and the identity of the person/s who betrayed them has never been confirmed till today, though there are many books written on the subject and speculations on the identity of the person/s concerned). The fates of all eight Jews in hiding is also revealed.
I would highly recommend this latest adaptation of "The Diary of Anne Frank" to anyone who has an interest in the Holocaust, who has read and loved Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl", and also to teachers of History, may we never forget. There is also a bonus feature which is an interview with Anne Frank's cousin, Buddy Elias.
I have watched two previous screen adaptations of "The Diary of Anne Frank". The 1959 B&W movie (total running time:180 mins) starring Millie Perkins as Anne Frank and Joseph Schildkraut as Anne's father, Otto. Though this movie was well-acted and credibly portrayed the fears and frustrations of people in hiding, I felt the movie was wanting in terms of being faithful to the original source, i.e. Anne's diary. This movie is not an altogether historically accurate representation of actual events. The Franks had gone into hiding before the Van Daans, but this is portrayed otherwise in the movie. Peter Van Daan [Van Pels] was extremely shy in real life, but his demeanor is portrayed differently here, and his romance with Anne is overly exaggerated in typical Hollywood style. This movie ends with the capture of the Franks' and their friends in hiding.
The second version I watched was "Anne Frank - The Whole Story" (Walt Disney Studio Release 2001 -total running time 189 mins) and is a well-acted and beautifully filmed movie based on Melissa Muller's biography of Anne Frank. The movie was beautifully filmed with great attention to period details and the excellent casting choices made this an engaging viewing experience. Ben Kingsley played the role of Otto Frank and Hannah Taylor-Gordon plays Anne Frank. Her resemblance to the real-life Anne is quite uncanny. Her portrayal of Anne is simply amazing - strong-willed, impetuous, candid, ambitious, and yet, underlying all that fierceness of spirit is a young girl on the brink of womanhood who yearns to be thought of as a woman and not a girl, and longs for freedom and love. This adaptation ends not with the capture of hidden Jews in the Secret Annex, but with the sisters in the Bergen-Belsen camp, and with their deaths.