Anne Frank Remembered

Reviewed By dionwr
Posted 02/07/04 05:42:16

"A swift kick in your complacency"
5 stars (Awesome)

There have been so many versions of the story of Anne Frank at this point, that some folks have become hardened and inured to it. This magnificent and compelling documentary slips easily and completely past every preconception and defense. It deserved the Oscar, and every other award, that it won.

Partly, our reaction to the story of Anne's life is because we know of Anne mostly from her famous diary. Aside from being as self-serving as any single person's account of such things must inevitably be, it focuses attention on the year she and her family hid in that secret annex. I was actually surprised to learn that Anne had lived another nine months in the hell of Bergen-Belson.

And the ironies are heartbreaking. Otto Frank was liberated from Auschwitz literally the day after his wife, Edith, had died there, and several weeks before Anne and her sister, Margot, died in their camp. Otto Frank would not learn that his daughters had died until seven months later, after vainly searching for them all that time.

The filmmaker, Jon Blair, aside from realizing that the whole story was more moving than the bits of it we all already know, also found living witnesses to present other views of Anne and her family. This removes the "goody two-shoes" version of Anne we have been fed for forty years.

Anne, despite her spirit and her humor, could be bratty and petulant, and was not a perfect girl. And that makes her less loveable, but more real. And did Anne, when she died, still believe her famous line from near the end of the diary, that, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart"?

If there's ever been a line cheapened by repitition, that is it. Generations of school teachers have forced us to remember that line, taking it as the ultimate statement of optimism in the face of adversity. See, kids, she was persecuted by the Nazis, but still looked on the bright side of life! Anne has become a Hallmark shop plaster saint, and that line is greatly to blame.

But in Anne Frank Remembered, you encounter a living witness of Anne's last days, who remembers her freezing and starving to death, and you can no longer be certain her optimism survived. It rescues Anne from the maudlin sentiment that has calcified around her.

The film also deals with the Holocaust deniers who use the slight differences between the various editions and translations of the diary to argue that Anne never existed. It is the most disheartening thing in a story full of grimness and brutality.

Anne's story has been told many times in film, and the success of this documentary, together with the release of a new, more complete edition of her diary (which her father had edited for its first publication), actually spawned another one, but this is the version to see.

The Holocaust may be simply too overwhelming, too serious a subject to dramatize. But whether or not it is, this documentary about Anne Frank moved this reviewer more than any other telling of the story, and more than just the diary itself did.

If you can dismiss this film--as the unfeeling boob who wrote the "pretty crappy" rating evidently did--check your pulse, you may be dead.

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