Anne Frank’s diary has become one of the most influential books of all time, and it was written by a teenager girl. Since it’s publication in 1947, it has become a beacon of hope as well as a testimony to the horrors of WWII.
The film opens looking over the streets and canals of Amsterdam. A truck with many people in its bed pulls up and lets one skinny bald man out. It’s Otto Frank, returning after the war. He finds his daughter’s diary and like being transported through her time capsule, we start from the beginning.
In 1942 Anne’s family go into hiding from the Germans in an annex above a spice factory. Along with the Frank family is the Van Daam family. Every day, while there are factory workers in the building, everyone must be as quiet as possible, so as not to give away their hiding place. That means no running the water, no talking above a whisper and if you absolutely must move make sure you’re wearing socks and step lightly. For three teenagers (Anne, her sister Margot, and the Van Daan’s son Peter) this level of quiet can be exhausting. Only once the last worker has left every night can the families move and make any noise.
Very quickly, we see how cramped the annex can be with seven people. Disputes flare up at the drop of a hat. Mr. and Mrs. Van Daam quarrel like children and Anne and her mother are often at each other’s throats. It doesn’t help that Anne is only thirteen, talkative, full of playful spunk and gets furious when her mother tells her to be like her more reserved sister, Margot.
When tensions aren’t high within the walls, it’s what’s happening outside that makes everyone tense. Every time a siren is heard, everyone freezes, dreading that it’s someone who has found out about their hiding. Only after the sirens fade can everyone breathe again. Occasional robbers and night bombings also keep everyone on edge. The bombing scene is especially frightening and makes the whole house rattle.
The set design of the annex is very detailed and historically correct. Everything from the bookcase hiding the door to Anne’s movie stars on her wall is accurate. The way it is filmed helps create the sense of being cramped. In many shots there is a clothesline or a column blurred in the foreground showing just how close everything is. The Diary of Anne Frank deservingly won the Oscars for set design and cinematography.
I would recommend this film for all ages, whether they’ve read the diary or not. It’s the best adaptation I’ve seen and one of the few that easily leaves out the graphic horrors of Nazi Germany. Watch it to remember the courage of a young girl who has inspired so many and rose to a great place in history she could have never imagined.
“Always remember this Anna, there are no walls, no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.”