The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

Anne Frank is perhaps the most famous Holocaust victim. Her diary that eventually received the title The Diary of a Young Girl provided insight into the human condition even though she wrote it under the most dire circumstances. The real Anne Frank might have died tragically in a concentration camp from typhus in March 1945, but her father preserved the legacy of her precocious daughter through the publication of her diary. Its profound examinations of humanity make the diary a spellbinding reading experience, and offers a cinematic quality to the writing. It is no wonder, then, that George Stevens would want to create a motion picture based upon the experiences of such a gifted young woman. The final film is one of the greatest films released during 1959, a special year that included the epic Ben-Hur and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

A Toast

This film adaptation based on the life and personal writing of a diarist is one of the most moving and tragically heart-breaking films ever to be shot in black-and-white. It is actually very fitting that the film is in black-and-white because there was no figurative color in Anne Frank’s life during the chaos and confusion of World War II. Shelley Winters definitely deserved the Academy Award for playing Mrs. Van Daan because she is able to honor that special historical figure while also making that character her own.

The film can also prompt viewers to question the nature of reality, and make them wonder why the Holocaust happened in the first place. Adolf Hitler might have perpetrated the worst genocide in history, but Anne Frank’s perceptions of the world around her knew no bounds (especially since she wrote in her diary affectionately named “Kitty” because it really was her one true friend in so many ways). The film also features a re-created Secret Annex that occupied the largest sound stage of the 20th Century-Fox lot in Hollywood during its filming. The art direction in this film is actually quite spectacular since the production team recreated Anne’s hiding place before the secret was unveiled behind the famed bookshelf.

Millie Perkins excels as Anne Frank even though she was in her early twenties during the shooting of this film. Audrey Hepburn turned down the leading role even though Anne Frank’s father, Otto, actually liked the idea of Hepburn playing his daughter. Hepburn might not have wanted to play this iconic figure because of the trauma of Nazi-occupied Holland, and it might have taken George Stevens four years to bring Anne Frank’s story to the screen, but all of his efforts paid off.

Verdict

The Diary of Anne Frank has the glamour of Hollywood production values and a phenomenal cast, but it still has the powerful message of love and humility that unites all people regardless of the characteristics that define them. Anne Frank will never be forgotten because her legacy endures through her writing and the filmmakers who want to preserve her story. Anne Frank even wrote in her diary about wanting to “live on long after her death,” and this film is among the many film adaptations that honor such a poignant true story.

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Anne Frank provides voice-over narration (which includes words from the actual diary)

Take a Drink: every time the Nazis and the Gestapo provide threats to the inhabitants of the Secret Annex

Drink a Shot: for all of the seagulls that symbolize the blessing of having the freedom to be outside during one of the darkest times in history

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