Anne Frank Remembered DVD – February 29, 2004
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This documentary skips over much of the time the Frank family spent in hiding, and only very few of Anne's entries are read. More time is spent on the background of the Frank family, and after they were caught.
That being said, from what I know of the story of Anne Frank, this documentary was very accurate; although as it was produced in 1996, there's likely new information that has been released since, but nothing too significant (to the best of my knowledge).
That her diary wasn't the focus didn't bother me by the end, as it was called "Anne Frank Remembered" and not the "Diary of Anne Frank". Anyone who has read the diary knows what's in it, so I didn't see that as critical. Though I did think they should have mentioned at least once the names that were changed. They repeatedly referenced the "van Pels", though in the version of the diary that I recently read (Definitive Edition), the names were changed to "van Daans" - this documentary didn't mention the changed name of the van Pel family.
As I said, anyone who read the diary won't have any problems filling in the gaps.
Several survivors and people who either knew Anne or were in the concentration camps are interviewed. There are several short video clips of Otto Frank, Anne's father, speaking.
There were several portions of this doc that focused on the Holocaust generally, without directly tying it to the experience of the Frank family, or her diary. I didn't have a problem with that and I think the film was a great "tribute" to Anne.
This film includes a short video of Anne at a window when she was 12 - It was one of the highlights of this film for me. It is an actual "moving picture", the only known video of Anne Frank.
One minor thing I didn't like about this film is the speed at which the names appeared and then disappeared from the screen when it was identifying who the speaker or interviewee was.
Reading Anne's diary which only encompassed two years of her all too brief life, piqued my curiosity to know more about her, and over the years I read several excellent books about her which told of her life before and after she went into hiding. Also, I had read the Pulitzer Prize winning play "The Diary of Anne Frank", and viewed the 1959 George Stevens film adaption of the same. Finally I had read in 1995 a new edition of the diary called "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - the Definitive Edition", that included approximately thirty percent of new material that Anne's father Otto Frank had excluded from the original edition. This documentary was released the same year, and reading this most recent edition first is excellent prep work before viewing the film.
In both versions, Anne becomes more of a flesh and blood human being, a normal teenager and less the shining icon. Her flaws as well as her virtues are revealed, which doesn't lessen our appreciation or admiration, but rather augments it. The tragically short trajectory of her life's journey that began and ended in Germany is presented as thoroughly as possible. Especially valuable are reminiscences by two of Anne's best friends both of who are familiar to readers of the diary, Hanneli Goslar who was given the alias of "Lies Goosens" and Jacqueline van Maarsen who was renamed "Jopie van der Waal". Particularly moving is Mrs. Goslar's recollection of the final meeting of Anne and she separated on opposite sides of a barbed wire fence one bitter dark night in the Bergen - Belsen concentration camp shortly before Anne's death. This is a cruel contrast to an earlier happier memory of Anne and she running to hug one another on their first day of kindergarten at the Montessori school in Amsterdam.
Generous, deserved appreciation is given to that remarkable woman Miep Gies, who was the sole survivor of the quartet that hid and took care of the Franks, van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer for two years in the "Secret Annex". This white haired, grandmotherly woman was a true heroine, remarkable for her sterling character and courage. Besides putting her husband Jan's and her lives on the line in hiding the group in the "Secret Annex", she courageously went to Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam to try to negotiate the release of the Franks and the others after the arrest. Sadly, she was unsuccessful, but it was she who saved Anne's diary and writings from the tender mercies of the Nazis just after the raid and kept them locked in her desk awaiting Anne's return. Her participation is invaluable as one of the few remaining eyewitnesses, perhaps the key one. There is a touching vignette where Mrs. Gies meets Peter Pfeffer, the son of Fritz Pfeffer for the first time, and he thanks her for all she did for his father.
The narration is well done by Kenneth Branagh clearly modulated but somber given the gravity of the events. However, the choice of Glenn Close to read passages from Anne's diary is unfortunate, her voice is obviously that of a mature woman, unsuitable for a young girl, better choices would have been Gwyneth Paltrow, Winona Ryder or Natalie Portman who would play the role in a Broadway revival a few years later. The cinematography is excellent through the use of computer graphics; the now empty rooms of the "Secret Annex" are suddenly transformed into a reasonable facsimile of what it looked like when occupied. Conversely, there is footage of the entrance to Auschwitz, and the infamous railroad and cattle car shot is the dead of a moonless night lit only by a sweeping searchlight that chills the blood, it's haunted by the ghosts of the innocents murdered there.
To wind this up, through photographs and interviews including those with Otto Frank, Anne's father, the viewer gets as close to knowing the real Anne Frank as is possible all these many years later. Deservedly it was rewarded with an Academy Award for Best Documentary of 1995, and was fittingly accepted by Miep Gies in addition to producer/director Jon Blair. It's excellently done, but in the last half disturbing and harrowing particularly from the betrayal to the awful end when all but Mr. Frank would perish in the various concentration camps. Yet as in the diary, Anne's soaring spirit ultimately triumphs. The final moments shows the only known filmed footage of Anne from 1941 as the camera fleetingly captures her, and Branagh quotes her for the last time. The title of this review is part of the quote, and kind of proves the old adage "be careful what you wish for". Anne Frank lives on all these years later through her legacy as a gifted writer, but at what a terrible cost.