In an age of digitised self-memorialisation, the notion of a teenager making a diary of their life under duress seems like an inevitability rather than an act of defiance or a historical necessity.
In the case of teenager Annelies Marie Frank, the diary she wrote during two years of concealment in the secret annexe of her father’s workplace in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation was never intended for publication.
Dedicated to an imaginary friend named Kitty, her words were published in 1947, two years after Anne and older sister Margot died from the effects of typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.
Anne’s father Otto was liberated from Auschwitz by the Russians and initially printed 3,000 copies of Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex).
The book has been translated into more than 60 languages and the family’s hiding place at Prinsengracht 263 opened as a museum in 1960.
Oscar-nominated Israeli writer-director Ari Folman, who grew up in a family of Holocaust survivors, attempts to connect young audiences to Anne’s life in an animated fable that visualises imaginary friend Kitty as the heroine of a politically charged story in present-day Amsterdam.
Simple yet effective visual flourishes fuse the two timelines and prickle fear, especially when legions of menacing Nazis march into The Netherlands, dressed identically with white masks and sweeping black capes like soul-sucking phantoms.
The subtlety and emotional power of the hand-drawn animation overshadows Folman’s script, which belabours similarities between the persecution of Jews during the Second World War and the forceful deportation of refugees from Europe.
On a stormy night in contemporary Amsterdam, Kitty (voiced by Ruby Stokes) materialises from the pages of the diary, frozen in time and unaware of the grim fate of Anne and her loved ones.
Invisible to visitors of Anne Frank House, Kitty observes a boy called Peter (Ralph Prosser) picking tourists’ pockets and she ultimately abandons the safety of the annexe to visit key monuments around the city dedicated to the little girl’s life.
Kitty’s odyssey sparks flashbacks to Anne (Emily Carey) entering the sanctuary with older sister Margot (Skye Bennett) and parents Otto (Michael Maloney) and Edith (Samantha Spiro).
The family maintains hushed silence during daylight hours to avoid detection and Anne documents her affection for Peter van Pels (Sebastian Croft) in the pages of the diary, a gift on her 13th birthday.
Where Is Anne Frank is heavy-handed with the timely political rhetoric but the inventiveness of Folman’s visual storytelling constantly impresses, such as when Anne and Peter appear to wander through the circuitry of a transistor radio.
Vibrant artistic choices provide easy access for young audiences to one of the darkest chapters in European history and its aftermath.
Our rating: 6.5/10
Released in Ireland: August 12th
(PG, 100 mins) Animation/Drama/War/Romance. Featuring the voices of Ruby Stokes, Emily Carey, Ralph Prosser, Sebastian Croft, Michael Maloney, Samantha Spiro, Skye Bennett, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Stuart Miligan, Andrew Woodall. Director: Ari Folman.