Film Discussion – Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl

Cinema Stats:

  • Released: 1958; re-released on 50th anniversary
  • Director: George Stevens
  • Screenplay and from Play (1956) by: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett; based on book by Anne Frank.
  • Length: 3 hours
  • Genre: Drama
  • Rating: Not rated
  • Awards: 3 golden globes – including winner of best film promoting international understanding. 3 Academy award winners + several nominations. Pulitzer prize winning play 1956 by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett

Cher’s Ratings

No art, except for an appreciation for its absence in captivity
Develops appreciation for the Jewish culture
A “must see” prior to a visit to Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House
Aware winning cast and production

Based on book by the same title by Anne Frank. Discussion and highlights on my blog post on the book, The Diary of Anne Frank.

Travel to Amsterdam: the Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House is the third most visited site in Amsterdam, after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. In anticipation of a trip to Amsterdam, I recommend reading this book and watching this movie to gain a much better understanding of not only a visit to the house, but also of Amsterdam and its role in history.

I highly recommend including it in your Amsterdam itinerary. NOTE: Timed tickets are needed; get them EARLY!

Travel Tips on visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam on my blog post.

More details are included on my related blog – Novel Discussion: Anne Frank, the Diary of a Young Girl.

In 2020, the world went into isolation, hiding in our homes, much like Anne Frank and her family. The goal? To prevent the invasion of a deadly enemy beyond our control, not unlike the Jews in World War II. We can relate to Anne’s feelings about her claustrophobic environment and frustration with our housemates.

Why should we watch the Anne Frank film?

In 2020, we also became more keenly aware of the rise of anti-Semitism and white nationalism in America and around the world. In this sense as well, “The Diary of Anne Frank” is more important than ever. 2018 marked the 60th anniversary of the first release of this historic film, the first American-made Holocaust film.

With the hate rhetoric we are seeing, where people divide others round them, we see what can happen when hatred goes unchecked. Beth Kern, executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, feels that the Anne Frank’s message is more important than ever. She thinks that it is an important time to show the film again because Anne’s diary is really a coming-of-age story, something to which a lot of young people can relate in today’s world.

Today’s young people can relate to Anne’s experience after having been cooped up with their families in their homes for much of 2020. She desperately missed her friends, her daily life, youthful fun–in the same way today’s young people are reacting to the pandemic. Anne’s confidence in life and her hope for the future, is something that may serve as an inspiration for us all.

Who is Anne Frank?

Anne Frank was an eternally optimistic teenager who wrote about her hopes and dreams and coming-of-age difficulties while hiding from the Nazis from 1942 to ’44 with her family and others in a small attic in Amsterdam above a business. They were captured in 1944; Anne died in Bergen-Belsen shortly before the end of World War II.

The Diary. The Play. The Film.

Anne’s father, Otto Frank was the only one of his immediate family – and the captives living in the attic – who survived the Holocaust; he had her diary published in 1947. “The Diary of a Young Girl” was translated into 67 languages and transformed into a Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning 1955 Broadway play. The 1959 film earned several Oscar nominations including best film and director and won three, including supporting actress for Shelley Winters as Mrs. Van Daan, the one attic resident Anne didn’t like.

The film was positively received by critics and is still often considered the best film adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary. The exteriors were filmed at the actual building in Amsterdam. The film was shot in Los Angeles on a sound stage duplicate of the factory. As I watched the movie again, after recently visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, I can attest to its authenticity.

The Plot

The film opens in 1945 – at the end of World War II. A truckload of war survivors stops in front of an Amsterdam factory and Otto Frank gets out. He walks inside, climbs the stairs to a deserted garret. There he finds a hand knit scarf, a girl’s discarded glove, and sobs. He is joined and comforted by Miep Gies and Mr. Kraler, the self-sacrificing office workers who had hid him and his family from the Nazis.

He is now all alone, he tells them, as Otto begins to search for the diary written by Anne, his youngest daughter. Having discovered it earlier and kept it safe, Miep promptly retrieves it for him. He receives solace reading the words written by Anne three years earlier. The scene shifts; it flashes back to 1942…the story begins…

Anne Frank’s older sister, Margot, received a letter ordering her to report to a work camp in Germany in July 1942. This was the impetus that caused the Frank family, living in Amsterdam, to go into hiding in an attic apartment behind Otto Frank’s business, located at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, on July 6, 1942.

The Characters

The Frank family – Otto, his wife Edith, Anne, and her older sister Margot – arrive at their hide-a-way.

They are joined by the Van Daan family who will share their tiny space: Mrs. Pettronelli Van Daan, her husband Hans Van Daan, and their son, Peter, just a bit older than Anne and who went to the same school.

The colorful personalities of the three Van Daan’s play important roles in not only the film, but in Anne’s life and musings. Mrs. Pettrolelli Van Daan is the one attic resident that Anne understandably does not like.

Passing the time by recounting font memories of her youth, she strokes the one remaining vestige of her former indulgent life: the full length fur coat given her by her father. Selfishly, her husband Hans sells his wife’s fur coat for cigarettes, and – he steals the group’s food.

Peter Van Daan, their teen age son, initially irritants to one another, eventually become close confidants and share their first kiss.

Peter’s cat, Mouschi, plays a major role in the story. Most significantly, he creates noise which threatens to their hideout.

Mr. Dussell, an eighth resident joins them later that fall. A bachelor dentist, a non-practicing Jew, who ends up as Anne’s roommate – and another major source of irritation to her.

Upon his arrival, Dussell provides a reality check for the attic residents. He recounts the dire conditions outside, in which Jews suddenly disappear and are shipped to concentration camps. He confirms the disappearance of many of their friends, dimming their thin threads of hope.

Anne’s mother, Edith Frank, is also regularly at odds with her impetuous daughter. The strain of confinement often pits the strong-willed Anne against her mother.

Why can’t Anne be more like her compliant sister, Margot?

Otto, Anne’s father is the house leader and seems to be the only one who understands her; their relationship is very close.

In the plaid covered diary she received on her 13th birthday a few months earlier (June 12th), Anne begins by chronicling the restrictions placed upon Jews that drove the Franks into hiding.

In the first pages of the diary, she describes the strangeness of never being able to go outside or breathe fresh air. She states that everybody is good at heart. This theme carries throughout.

The End of the Diary…

In April 1944, amid talk of liberation, the Franks watch helplessly as more Jews are marched through the streets. By July 1944, the invasion has bogged down. Anne writes that her diary provides her with a way to go on living after her death. The Van Daans quarrel. Peter declares that he cannot tolerate the situation. Anne reminds him of the goodness of those who have come to their aid. Sirens of an approaching police truck. Certain of their impending arrest, Anne and Peter bravely stand arm in arm, passionately kiss. Uniformed German police break down the bookcase entrance to the hideout. Otto declares they no longer have to live in fear, but can go forward in hope. The curtain closes on this part of their story. We don’t see them taken away, but history has filled in the blanks for us. We know the end of the story.

The End of the Film…

The lights return and we are once again in the attic with Otto, Miep and Kraler in 1945. Otto tells them that, after his release from Auschwitz, he learned that Edith, Margot, the Van Daans, and Dussell had all perished. He held out hope that perhaps Anne had somehow survived. Sadly, just the day before, he met a woman who had been in Bergen-Belsen with Anne; she confirmed her death as well.

Otto glances at Anne’s diary in his lap and reads, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart,” and reflects upon her unshakeable optimism.

In the End…what Happened to them All?

In the German documents surviving the war, we learn that Anne Frank and the others from the annex were arrested on August 4th, 1944 and moved to Auschwitz in early September, 1944. That same night, a group including Hans Van Daan was gassed. Otto and Edith Frank remained at Auschwitz where Edith perished from starvation and exhaustion in early January, 1945. In October/November, 1944, Anne and Margot were sent to Bergen-Belsen where they both died of typhus; Margo died in March and Anne in April, 1945. The others were sent to various other camps; none survived.

Otto Frank was committed to keeping Anne’s story – their story – alive. Actively involved in the making of the film, he believed that Millie Perkins was perfectly cast well as Anne; she reminded him of his daughter. However, upon its release in 1959, it was still too difficult for him to watch the movie. Eventually he did watch it and acknowledged that he loved the movie and was proud and pleased of how they did it. He thanked Millie for her performance, it was what he hoped and wanted it to be.


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