Whoa. I might have found another entry in my top 10 of favourite movies with this one. First a bit of back-story though, because this movie made an huge personal impression on me. I’ll just say it right here: I’m biased. But even without my bias, this is one heck of an underrated movie.
Before I started watching this movie, I had no idea how I’d perceive it. I actually live less than a 10 minutes walking distance away from where Anne Frank once hid from the Germans, and wrote her famous diary. Heck, I walk past the Anne Frank House every time I need to go to the university! Being this familiar to the setting in which this movie was adapted, I really didn’t know whether the creators could do it justice: would the movie be a huge bomb of nostalgia, or would I spend its entire airtime picking apart every detail they got wrong?
I never actually read Anne’s diary, though. As a kid I had little interest in her. The primary school I was raised in found the Second World War a very important issue, and thus we were thrown to death about her and how important her diary was and how famous it has become. As a kid, I really could care less about those things, and as such, I never really understood what was the great deal about her.
I’m glad to see that this adaptation of her diary shattered both these stereotypes. The creators, despite being Japanese who often have overmoralized stereotypes about the western world, really got the setting right. I loved how I wasn’t just able to recognize the famous landmarks like the Western Church, the Palace on the Dam and the office behind which Anne and her family were hiding, but even some of the individual houses, the river the Amstel. The characters were obviously a bit Japanese, because there are some things that just get too lost in translation here, but I loved how the creators did manage to cast some of the characters with that typical Dutch rudeness. The creators did an incredibly accurate job in making this setting come alive.
The rest of the movie is also superbly done. The creators managed to portray Anne really well as an average teenager, with her strengths and her flaws. The other people around her are also wonderfully characterized: you can see them slowly get used to each other, and very subtly change as the movie goes on. The “chemistry” between the characters is really well done, and keeps the movie interesting, despite how relatively little happens. If this indeed is a very faithful adaptation, then I must applaud Anne for being an excellent writer, despite only being so young.
The story is also unlike any other WWII movie I’ve seen so far. Most deal with the horrors of death and destruction. However, this movie is about the fear of death and destruction. Anne and her family, along with a number of other people were locked away for two years, without ever going outside. They had to live for two long years among hunger and not knowing what’s going on, amidst the boredom of having hardly anything to do; it’s a very unique sort of slice-of-life story. The drama is very subtle, and usually comes from this, and the fear of being discovered. On top of that, this has one of the most powerful endings I’ve seen in a movie. So incredibly subtle, especially considering that this is non-fiction.
The animation was done by Madhouse, and it just spells out quality. The animation is just incredibly smooth. Even for movie standards. There are hardly any still frames, and even frames that have eight or more characters in it have every single character animated, instead of just standing still. The soundtrack is also haunting. It’s full of powerful piano tunes that create a fantastic atmosphere.
There’s just one huge but with this movie: it assumes its viewers to have background information on the story. This story is called the “Diary of Anne Frank” for a reason: we only see what Anne Frank experienced during these two years. There were certain things that she didn’t know, and therefore the movie also doesn’t show it. While I can really recommend this movie to the Dutch people who visit this blog, I really don’t know how much, say, Americans know about the German oppression in the Netherlands.
I’m very surprised at how little known this movie is. It’s not like I’m watching another one of those obscure unsubbed anime either: there’s a very fine subbed version floating around the Internet. If people request it, I might do a little write-up of the things you need to know in order to watch this movie. It’s well worth it, even to those who don’t live in Holland. It did a wonderful job in portraying the setting without falling into stereotypes. It’s a claustrophobic movie which for its majority just plays out inside one single house. it’s a real recommendation for those looking for a movie and don’t mind the lack of action.