GoCritic! Review: Where is Anne Frank?
- Mădălina Buțulan takes a look at Ari Folman's animated feature from a parent’s perspective
Where is Anne Frank? [+see also:
interview: Ari Folman
film profile] is a 2021 feature animation by Ari Folman, the Israeli filmmaker best known for Waltz with Bashir. With the release of this film in 2008, Folman found his niche in the category of animated documentaries having a direct connection with tragic real-life events.
Where is Anne Frank, screened out of competition at Animest, follows Anne's story told through the point of view of her imaginary friend, Kitty, who becomes a witness to the last two years of the Frank family's life. The film presents Kitty’s journey, investigating what happened to her beloved friend while hiding with her family in a small Amsterdam apartment during the Second World War. Kitty is a human representation of the diary, and Anne’s best friend to whom she wrote many letters in her famous book. Indeed, there’s a whole page dedicated to her on the Anne Frank House museum’s official website.
Folman’s decision to tell Anne’s story from Kitty’s point of view and to set the main thrust of the action in the present day are new elements compared to other films based on the same book, such as 2021’s My Best Friend Anne Frank by Ben Sombogaart, 1995’s Anne no Nikki by Akinori Nagaoka, or 1959’s The Diary of Anne Frank by George Stevens. The director subsequently divides the film into two storylines: the first depicts modern-day Amsterdam, where Kitty lives in the Anne Frank House, visited by dozens of tourists every day, trying to find out where her friend is. She realises that tourists don’t actually know the 13-year-old girl, they’re only familiar with the localities in the city centre that bear her name. Meanwhile, the second storyline, set in the 1940s, depicts the relationship between Kitty and Anne, their innocent, childish discussions about the position of Jewish people and how they were perceived in this horrible period.
Compared to Waltz with Bashir [+see also:
film profile], the present film is more child-oriented and aims to complete the puzzle of the Holocaust for future generations with this small yet iconic missing piece. The film is made with a mix of 2D colour animation and typography, and is accompanied by a soft piano score which accentuates the characters' sadness and hopelessness. Although the film's subject refers to a dramatic historical event, Folman doesn’t use explicitly violent images. Furthermore, the dialogue between Anne and Kitty is based on a common language which is easy for children to understand, providing them with a simplified, straightforward perspective on the Holocaust. For example, when Kitty asks, “But what does it mean to be Jewish, anyway?”, Anne replies, “It means making a decision to take on Jewish destiny and history’’.
Folman's perspective on the Holocaust fills a gap in children's education about the world's worst genocide and makes for an excellent conversation starter for parents with children over the age of 9. If you think that the Holocaust might not be an appropriate subject for an animated film, Folman has taken care of that aspect too: the film doesn’t offer up violent details, so parents are in control of the information they share with their little ones about this historical event, without having to skip specific sequences.
And whilst Folman may have dedicated this movie to his parents, who survived Auschwitz, he doesn’t depict the camps explicitly. For adults, this animation comes with a greater emotional charge, precisely because they know what the Holocaust represented. Parents should also know that this movie teaches acceptance and non-discriminatory language based on identity factors. For a parent, numerous scenes inevitably make you think, ''I wouldn't want my child to feel discriminated against because they don't look like most people, because they don't dress a certain way or because they make different choices from others''. And this is the point that children should take away with them, which is also the film’s most valuable aspect.
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