WHERE IS ANNE FRANK
Cast: Emily Carey, Sebastian Croft, Skye Bennett, Ruby Stokes, Nell Barlow
Director: Ari Folman
A storm rages in Amsterdam, but that doesn’t deter visitors from lining up outside the Anne Frank House to get a glimpse of her famous diary and gaze upon the rooms she once inhabited. A home address re-fashioned as a must-see tourist attraction for quick photos and perhaps some short-lived introspection. Outside its doors, a family of refugees becomes homeless when the inhospitable weather tears apart their makeshift shelter. That’s how Ari Folman’s spellbinding animated feature Where Is Anne Frank opens, a storytelling epiphany that reframes the past and interrogates our present. Its rhetorical title takes on a literal connotation via a revitalised rendering of the eponymous teenager’s final years. No stranger to the animated medium, Folman exploits it for all its narrative potential to cross over time and space, and for its capacity to serve as a poetic vehicle for real-life harshness. The Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir vouches for his approach. Told from the naive vantage point of her imaginary pal Kitty (voiced by Ruby Stokes), who searches for her in the modern world, the film invokes parallels between the Holocaust and the current humanitarian crises of displaced people from Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East. These don’t equate the two nor imply the root causes respond to a similar context but speak to Otto Frank’s conviction that saving even one life is a worthwhile undertaking. With a responsibility to the source material, the Israeli writer-director straddles a challenging line between the subtly educational, the aesthetically lyrical, and the incisive assessment of Anne Frank’s multi-shaded personality. Where Is Anne Frank is decidedly mature but still targets the same demographic that would read the original book in school - adolescents able to grasp its moral intricacies.
This hand-drawn animated vision is visually elaborate and with great depth given to the environments where some of the backgrounds were first created as physical miniatures with the drawn characters brought in later. Ink from the revered diary gives life to Kitty. As she rises from the aged paper, she discovers her invisibility to people around as long as she remains inside the museum. The coloured liquid that floats and dissolves in the air also functions as a portal for Kitty to reconnect with her time with Anne, first in her family’s home and then in their hiding place. Ink is animated almost as a life form, which is one of the most impressive effects in the film that also reads like a strong motif. If Kitty gets too far from the object holding the words that granted her existence, she fades away. A metaphor, perhaps, for how we’ve lost sight of Anne’s ordeal as a Jewish person in Nazi-controlled Europe. As we forget and stray from the path of compassion, our humanity also begins to vanish. The artistry of the animation and Folman’s deliberate rendition of Frank’s temperament show what Folman seems to demand in that if we are going to co-opt Frank’s former abode and her private thoughts on the book that’s become synonymous with her, then we must also address the full extent of the unspeakable degradation she endured and how our apathy and lack of empathy are allowing other abhorrent injustices to occur right in front of us now. The climax to Where Is Anne Frank, brims with hope and sincerity that could be seen as sentimental, but in the context of this emotional expedition, it offers hope that we can actually grow and genuinely care for each other.