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The Diary Of Anne Frank (2009) review


Director: George Stevens

Starring: Ellie Kendrick, Iain Glen, Tamsin Greig, Geoff Breton

“I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time.” (Anne, The Diary Of Anne Frank)

Last month I suddenly had the urge to become more cultured, and so I finally did something I’d always wanted to do – I read Anne Frank’s diary. Far be it for me to criticise such a monumental tome, but I wasn’t completely enamoured with it. Although Frank was an incredible writer for her age, being a young teenager who was naturally unaware of the horrible fate awaiting her the majority of the book consisted of spiteful comments about the people sharing the small annex with her as she, her family and four others hid from the Nazis.

In fact, and I’m really truly sorry for anyone offended by this, but had it not been for the historical importance of the book and the fact that we all knew the atrocious details of what happened to Anne Frank after she wrote her diary, you might be forgiven for not really warming to her, or maybe even thinking she was a bit of a knob.

It’s difficult writing jokey captions about a film like this. Go on, try it.

This TV mini-series made by the BBC, then, can be forgiven for making use of a little poetic license so that Anne is less like the cold, sometimes spiteful teenager she was in her diary and is instead more amiable and downright charming at times. While there are still moments where she’s a bit of a tit, like when she writes her father a cruel letter or when she dismisses her mother’s offer of comfort, for the most part she’s significantly more likeable than she is in her actual diary.

This is partly thanks to the casting of Ellie Kendrick, who does an incredible job as Anne Frank. At first it does seem odd to see a 13-year-old German girl being played by a 19-year-old Brit (in fact, it’s odd that the entire cast has English accents), but you quickly forget this and begin to enjoy her performance. Well, maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word, but you know what I mean.

I mean, it’s a film about a real-life girl who died when she was a teen. How can you joke about that?

Also impressive is the accuracy of the annex set, which judging by photos and videos shot since is incredibly faithful to the actual one. This makes it a lot easier to transport yourself to their situation.

There are two versions of this mini-series, a 150-minute version and a 100-minute version. Unfortunately the 100-minute version is the only one I had access to, but so much of the book is accounted for that I’d be interested to see how they managed to stretch it out for another 50 minutes.

That said, the inclusion of some scenes is a little questionable, especially given that this version is a cut-down one. Was it really necessary to keep in her chat about menstruation, or show her crying as she comes to terms with the development of her breasts? Perhaps these scenes have been kept in there to show that she was a normal girl with normal thoughts, but they were still a little uncomfortable to watch since they were the private thoughts of a real 13-year-old.

I can’t even laugh at them being in the rain because it’s all so depressing

Naturally, sad as it is to say it, anyone watching a portrayal of Anne Frank’s death is ultimately awaiting the scene where they’re eventually found by the Nazis. This version once again uses a little poetic license – it suggests that Anne was writing in her diary as the Nazis arrived, whereas in reality her last entry was three days before it happened. This aside, it’s still handled fairly tastefully, and it’s nice that there aren’t any prison camp scenes (which would have essentially been pure speculation, as nobody knows for sure when or how she died). Instead we get simple title cards explaining what happened to each of the annex members.

Whether you’ve read Anne Frank’s diary or not, this 2009 interpretation is an effective, (mostly) tasteful, (mostly) accurate attempt at telling the story. The lead actress’s performance masterfully carries the film, and it’s for this reason that I’d recommend it.

You can get the full 150-minute mini-series on DVD for only a few quid on Amazon. Alternatively, if you’ve got Netflix and access to the US library (using this trick), you can find the 100-minute version there as part of your subscription.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to read more like it, here’s a complete list of reviews on That Was A Bit Mental complete with brief descriptions.

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