Altitude Film presents Where Is Anne Frank in UK cinemas from today.
Fiery teenager Kitty, Anne Frank’s imaginary friend to whom her famous diary is dedicated, comes to life in the modern day in the Amsterdam house where Anne had taken refuge with her family. Believing her to still be alive, Kitty embarks on a journey to find Anne in today’s Europe. While the young girl is shocked by the modern world, she also comes across Anne’s vast legacy.
On a dark and rainy morning at The Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, a stray bolt of lightning literally brings the words of the literary icon to life. Through beautiful animation and poignant storytelling director Ari Folman take the audience on a journey through the final years of Anne’s (Emily Carey) life.
Anne’s story is told by Kitty (Ruby Stokes), the imaginary friend to whom she wrote the diary. Kitty is the literal embodiment of Anne’s words. A fish out of water in the present day, unaware of what happened to her friend and creator. Also unaware of how World War II came to an end. Where Is Anne Frank tries to tell the story of both girls, one real and the other fictitious. Folman also attempts to use Kitty’s journey to highlight the plight of modern day immigrants seeking solace in countries like Holland.
For some, this representation of Anne Frank may feel somewhat removed from reality. When Kitty retreats in to her memories (i.e. the diary), we see a version of Anne who almost feels contemporary. She gleefully discusses how all the boys in school have a crush on her. She dishes on her favourite Hollywood heartthrobs. Even trapped in their secret apartment, hidden from the Nazi’s, she strikes up a romantic relationship with Peter (Sebastian Croft). Folman’s approach to the character notably opens Anne up to a wider audience. But at times I found myself wondering if there truly was so much levity during a time of war.
Kitty’s journey is equally fascinating. Her sole purpose in life seemingly to find Anne, she discounts all of the Anne Frank monuments she discovers across the city. Despite the world around her and the people within it, she remains fixated on finding her friend. Ultimately her journey leads her beyond the end of Anne’s diary, technically beyond her own existence. Along with her new love interest – also called Peter (Ralph Prosser) – Kitty travels to the concentration camp where Anne’s life came to an end. It’s an emotional conclusion to Anne’s story. But Where Is Anne Frank has much more to say.
Kitty’s journey with Peter leads her to meeting a community of immigrants living illegally in the city. Inspired by Anne’s strength and recognising the obvious connection to the plight of the Jews, Kitty protects the community at all costs. It’s a little heavy handed. Whilst the plight of immigrants has never been more timely, it feels like Anne ends up as a vehicle for telling a politically charged story about the current state of Europe.
The lack of focus is a little frustrating. On the whole Where Is Anne Frank is gripping. But with three stories each vying for control it feels as though none is quite given the development it deserves.
The visuals of Where Is Anne Frank are by far its biggest selling point. The animation is flawless. Every scene is meticulously thought out and that really stands out on the screen. Anne’s own daydreams take on a classically Hollywood appearance. Nazi’s appear are foreboding hellish monsters. Her everyday life, whilst much more straightforwards, features an amazing mix of 2D animation and 3D, stop motion set pieces. The visuals are full of atmosphere and absolutely elevate the film to the next level.
Stunning visuals and compelling characters help Ari Folman’s Where Is Anne Frank become compulsory viewing. But its heavy handed messaging dilute the impact of its titular heroine’s harrowing journey.