|$||70.1M||Star Trek Into Darkness|
|$||35.7M||Iron Man 3|
|$||23.9M||The Great Gatsby (2013)|
|$||3.2M||Pain & Gain|
|As of May 22, 2013|
The movie begins with Otto Frank, Anne’s father, returning to the annex where the Frank and the Van Daan families hid from the Nazis during World War II. Otto walks through the hidden staircase into the attic, where he encounters Miep Gies, the woman who was a member of the underground movement that helped the Franks and Van Daans stay hidden from the Nazis. Miep, hoping to give the diary to Anne once the war ended, learns from Otto that Anne died in the concentration camps and hands the diary over to Otto. Fighting through his tears, Otto opens the diary and begins to read the first entry (1942), bringing the viewer back in time to the first day of hiding for the families.
Anne’s diary is channeled through the performance of Millie Perkins, who, in her first movie role, does a phenomenal job of demonstrating the emotional depth of Anne’s writing. Beyond this aspect of her poignant performance, Perkins also displays the personality changes that Anne undergoes during the approximate two year period when Anne and her family were in hiding. When the Frank family initially enters the attic, the viewer sees Anne as a sweet, somewhat hyper-active child who is fairly innocent to the horror that’s occurring in the outside world. While the Frank family had to endure the many discriminations that the Nazis thrust upon the Jews in Amsterdam, including wearing the yellow star on all of their clothes (identifying them as Jews), they were fortunate to escape the mass round-ups and exiles to concentration camps.
Throughout the course of the movie, the combination of Anne’s adolescent development, her realization of the horror occurring outside of the annex, as well as the confining environment that she’s forced into causes Anne to blossom into a creative, idealistic young woman. Perkins’ performance makes you appreciate how Anne was able to escape the terror of the Nazis by retreating into her own world, via both her diary and her budding romance with Peter Van Daan (played by Richard Beymer).
Not surprisingly, all of the people in the film undergo physical, mental and emotional changes based on the circumstances that are forced upon them. Peter’s father, Hans (a man who enters the annex with generous physical proportions), has difficulty giving up cigarettes and eating less food. In one memorable scene, Hans, after being caught stealing food from the group’s supply, receives a verbal tirade from Mrs. Frank for stealing from the group and for not sacrificing his insatiable appetite for his son. Mrs. Frank furiously orders Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan to leave the building immediately, prompting Mr. Frank to declare that they didn’t need the Nazis to destroy them, as they were destroying themselves. Eventually, the news of the D-Day invasion causes cooler heads to prevail, and the Van Daans are allowed to stay, causing Hans to hysterically break down, apologetically crying.
In another standout scene, Mrs. Van Daan (played by the excellent Shelley Winters) is torn over being forced to sell her family heirloom (a fur coat) for scraps of food and a few cigarettes. In this scene, Winters successfully portrays Mrs. Van Daan’s anguish, not over having to sell an expensive coat, but over being forced to give up the last vestige of her family in an attempt to ensure their survival.
George Stevens made an excellent decision by presenting the movie in black and white instead of color (I wonder if Steven Spielberg made the same decision for Schindler’s List after watching this film). There’s a flood of lighting when Anne is hopefully looking out the ceiling window, wishing that the war will be ending soon. This contrasts with the virtual darkness and fear that occurs when a burglar breaks into the building; will the burglar hear a noise and alert the Gestapo?
As you probably expected, there are several moments in the film that are outright gripping and will last in your memory many days after watching the film. The true test of any non-fiction movie is when, even knowing in advance how the story will end, the viewer can’t help but get caught up in the suspense. To that end, this movie excels at captivating your emotions.
Without a doubt, the pinnacle of the movie is the scene where the families are discovered by the Gestapo. The mounting tension that occurs is heart-stopping, and as the police sirens grow nearer, Anne and Peter passionately kiss, realizing that this may be the last happy moment that share together. You can feel the utter look of despair and fear cross each person’s face, as Frank Otto hopelessly tries to be optimistic, saying "For the past two years, we have lived in fear. Now we can live in hope."
Anne’s diary is cut off mid-sentence, as she explains that the families have been ordered to take as many clothes with them as they can, but to leave everything else behind. Otto tearfully mentions how he discovered that each and every person living with him in the attic died in the concentration camps, but he kept holding out hope that Anne would survive. The day before he arrived at the annex, Otto learned that Anne died of typhus, a mere few weeks before her camp was liberated by the British.
While many Holocaust movies focus on the experience of being in one of the concentration camps, The Diary of Anne Frank uniquely covers interpersonal relationships, and how they are affected by the realization that your freedom (which is to say, your life) could end at any minute. Perhaps the greatest impression this movie leaves is that it allowed Anne Frank’s spirit to fulfill her stated desire; namely, that she would go on living, even after she died.
5 out of 5 stars
Copyright © 2010 Screen Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
Certain product data © 2010-present Screen Media, Inc. For personal use only. All rights reserved.