Anne Frank and her diary, with this begins for many the awareness of a crime against humanity, the first confrontation with the Holocaust. An event that becomes more and more distant as time progresses – which is why the keepers of memory are looking for new ways to bring history back to the present of young people.
The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, for example, produced a Dutch web series three years ago in which Anne Frank gets a video camera for her birthday instead of a diary and then posts short films from her life: “So this is my life!” she says straight into the camera, played by 13-year-old Dutch-Mexican Luna Cruz Perez, who improvises the lyrics in her own words, and then tears run down her cheeks.
New clips were released every few days as if Anne were an influencer sharing her thoughts with her followers even beyond the time narrated in the real diary. The Instagram account @ichbinsophiescholl, produced by BR and SWR, had a similar approach, in which Luna Wedler as Sophie lets today’s kids participate in the last ten months of their lives in a very subjective way and in imaginary real time.
Representing the children who go to the cinema today, Kitty asks many questions
When Israeli animation filmmaker Ari Folman (“Waltz with Bashir”) received an offer from Anne Frank’s family to remake the diary, he also wanted to address today’s children as directly as possible. In order to allay the concerns that immediately piled up, he first reworked the diary into a graphic novel together with the graphic artist David Polonsky. Only their success paved the way for the Moviewhose main character is not Anne, but her imaginary friend Kitty, the addressee of her diary entries, who has always been silent up until now.
Like the genie from Aladdin’s lamp, Kitty now rises from the pages of the book in the Anne Frank Museum and materializes exactly as Anne imagined. While the visitors are waiting for the doors to open, she looks around the empty rooms in amazement, calls for Anne, her sister Margot and her parents – because time has stood still for her, on August 1, 1944, on which Anne died once wrote something in her diary.
When the guards come, she hides, but soon realizes they can’t see her at all. She runs into Anne’s room and marvels at all the abusive visitors who violate Anne’s privacy and watches a boy using the crowd to pickpocket. When peace returns, she opens the book. As for all other readers, for Kitty too it becomes a concrete window into the past, into Anne’s life in hiding. In these flashbacks, Anne lives again.
Time travel adventures need firm rules: Kitty’s existence is tied to the book, she only becomes visible to everyone when she leaves the house in Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht where she was Anne’s imaginary friend. If she strays from the book for too long, she begins to dissolve, into a tangle of ink threads that slowly rise and disperse. This creates great pictures, even for adult viewers.
Representing the children who go to the cinema today, Kitty asks a lot of questions and has Anne explain the madness of National Socialism to her. Kitty asks why the Nazis targeted the Jews, and Anne explains that it was always the minorities who were blamed for grievances. In the present, Kitty becomes a detective who must figure out what happened to Anne and her family, a manga girl action heroine in fast-paced chases across the city where the kids become her escape agents.
The film is a good trick to blow up the museum’s airtight showcases
She notices the tents and camps of refugees from all over the world who are warming themselves at fire barrels all over the city. And while in the past monstrous soldiers in black with their evil bulldogs goose-stepped through Amsterdam and drove the deportation to the camps, today’s police officers come to round up and deport fugitives, including a little African girl who tells Kitty what happened to her.
Kitty’s animated dance between times is a good trick to blow up the airtight showcases and breathe fresh air into the museum. And above all, to turn Anne Frank into a real girl who can sometimes be rebellious when she is a teenager, brag about the number of her admirers and be angry with her mother. The loss of the diary, which Kitty took with her, leads to a feverish search. Posters are everywhere, promising high rewards to the finder. Kitty doesn’t understand the excitement – she would rather do something for the persecuted in Anne’s spirit. The worst course of knowledge is still ahead of her.
“Where is Anne Frank?” Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Netherlands, Israel 2023, directed and written by Ari Folman, based on Anne Frank’s diary. Featuring the voices of Emily Care, Sebastian Croft, Ruby Stokes. Rental. Color film, 104 minutes. Theatrical release: February 23, 2023.