Archive for April 2010
Families clash, people bicker, brittle feelings snap in the new Diary of Anne Frank. As well they might, when eight people are confined in a few small rooms for two years.
The original 1959 Hollywood film won audiences with its sympathetic look at a Jewish teenager hiding out in Amsterdam from Nazi forces. This version, originally a BBC miniseries, premiered on PBS on April 11 — appropriately on Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day. WPBT-Ch. 2 in Miami will rebroadcast it at 4 p.m. April 18.
But don’t look here for the delicate daydreamer played by Millie Perkins in the original. In its place, Ellie Kendrick portrays a gifted but self-centered girl who can’t fathom why everyone else doesn’t accommodate her.
The two families, and a dentist friend, are thrown together in an annex above the office of Otto Frank, Anne’s father. His associates smuggle food and a radio to them, their lifeline for body and mind.
Like prisoners in a dungeon, the eight Jews mainly hear echoes of the war raging around them. They cluster around the radio, feeding off whatever tidbits BBC can toss. Only occasionally do they hear warplanes roar overhead or bombs shaking their attic, forcing them to cling to one another.
In between, though, they turn on one another, their raw emotions erupting into quarrels over cigarettes and sleeping arrangements and one loud-talking person. The strife is familiar to anyone from a dysfunctional family. Here, effects are magnified by the cramped quarters and the knowledge that the secret police are hunting for them.
Anne does her share of fighting, though she tries to get along with sister Margot and flirts with Peter, another upper-room refugee. She also has her redemptive moments. She throws herself into her father’s arms. She treasures a foil-wrapped chocolate bar on her birthday, cradling it like gold bullion. And she pours intellect and sensitivity into her diary.
Her brightness hints at a major tragedy of World War II. Not just the loss of Anne’s talents, but of the 61 million others who died over those six years. How many of them could have become fine writers? Or artists or composers? Or scientists or civic leaders or human rights champions? War may sometimes be inevitable, but it’s truly a self-inflicted wound for mankind.
A postscript says that of all the Franks, only father Otto survived the Nazi camps, living until 1980. What a lifelong grief that must have been for him. Though he designed and built the hideaway, he lived with the knowledge that he was unable to protect anyone.