The Diary of Anne Frank (2009) is most probably the tenth or twelfth screen adaptation of the famous book The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank and one with the most genuine screenplay, I think. It’s a five-part BBC TV series based on the two years during which Anne Frank along with seven others lived in a “Secret Annexe” in Amsterdam.
The series has been directed by Jon Jones and the screenplay is by Deborah Moggach. Ellie Kendrick plays Anne Frank, Iain Glen as Otto Frank, Tamsin Greig as Edith Frank and Felicity Jones as Margot Frank, play the Frank family of four; Kate Ashfield as Miep Gies, among others.
Anne Frank is one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust (World War II) and what makes her famous is, of course, her diary. The story follows the events that took place during Germany’s Netherlands occupation, deporting the Jews to concentration camps.
The first of the five episodes shows Anne’s life at her comfortable home in Amsterdam. Her father owned a business and she lived with her parents and sixteen year old elder sister, Anne was thirteen years old herself. This was in 1941, the Germans had already begun to sweep off Jews from Holland and that is why her father planned that he, along with the rest of the family, would go into hiding until the war was over. The hiding place was, her father, Otto Frank’s old office building’s attic room.
Otto Frank was supported by his office staff Miep Gies, Mr. Kugler, Mr. Koophius and Elli. Miep was responsible for bringing in the food and other daily supplies. Later on, in the same month another family joined them, the Van Daans, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan and their fifteen year old son Peter. Mr. Van Daan was Otto Frank’s colleague. After sometime, another member joined them, a dentist, Mr. Dussel, who was to share Anne’s room.
The first thing that you’ll notice about this TV series is that it is original, sincere and you sort of, get in touch with characters instantly. I must also comment upon the art direction since it is very nicely done. Ellie Kendrick plays a very convincing Anne Frank, which comes surprisingly since she hasn’t had any major roles before this one.
There’s nothing in the storyline which comes as suspense, we know the story already, and it is the emotion that makes you watch this series. It is a sad story of a thirteen year old girl, stuck in a building, not in touch with the outside world. It is about her feelings, her transformation from a child to a mature teenager and the hopelessness that the war wouldn’t end.
The series proceeds with the day to day life and its tension in the “Secret Annexe” between the two families, the fear on learning that more and more Jews are being taken to the concentration camps and horror that they might be discovered any day. To the members of the “Secret Annexe”, each day came with the fright that they might be discovered by the Germans and yet there were other silly worries with living without any privacy, so close together, all of which made life very irritable and hopeless altogether.
All the characters have been played to best, and I can tell this since I have read the book already. Father, Otto Frank is brave and organised and tactful; mother, Edith Frank is sensitive, reserved and loving; Margot Frank is very quiet, intelligent and a peacemaker; Anne is smart, intelligent and talkative and she has another side to her character which she is afraid to show. Then comes the Van Daan household, Mr. Van Daan is forever craving for cigarettes and is angry most of the times; Mrs. Van Daan is pompous, scared and stupid; Peter Van Daan is quiet, shy and thinks that he’s good at nothing and finally, Mr. Dussel is quiet, private and sometimes impossible.
The member of the “Secret Annexe” hid in there for about twenty five months during which they were cut from the outside world completely. At some points of time they felt desperate and miserable and at other times they thanked God for saving them from the wrath of the Germans for this long. Its beautiful how Anne Frank has captured the big and the small things in her diary, from her perspective, sometimes it is so deep and mature that you won’t believe that it is written by a thirteen year old girl. The screenplay is very subtle, no exaggerations at all and yet it is extremely moving.
I would especially like to mention the final episode where it all ends and nothing in ink goes to the diary anymore, which in my observation has been directed with extra finesse. You just can’t afford to leave it for the next time and impulsively watch it soon after finishing the fourth episode.
The last scene of the series will surely give you creeps and you’ll end up in tears, that, if you have closely followed the previous episodes. There is no brutality in the series, its all about emotions and they are quite more than enough to make you cry. I remember, I had goose bumps as I watched the climax of the series and by the end I was in tears, not able to get the last shot out of my mind.
Anne always wanted to be a writer when she was “old enough” and to “to live even after her death” and both her wishes got fulfilled but she was no longer present to witness them.
I strongly recommend this series, to all ages. It is definitely one of my favourites and I think you’ll like it too. It will make you think about yourself, your thoughts when you were thirteen years old and how fortunate we are today.
There’s quotation I would like to share, “War has its own way of differentiating between the things that matter and the things that don’t.”, it certainly does!