My Best Friend Anne Frank — A Whole New Perspective

Anna became what she wanted, world famous. And Hannah knows that for a while they were genuinely happy.

My Best Friend Anne Frank (2022) is the classical based-on-a-true-story drama about the Holocaust. Difficult to film, hard to watch, impossible to criticise. Hannah Goslar, a German born Jewish girl, reflects on her friendship with Anne Frank through the sequence of memories. The plot is divided in two: her life before the concentration camp, and then within it. This kind of presentation is interesting, to be fair; seeing Anne Frank from such a perspective is new. But the format becomes predictable when we first see how happy nostalgic memories turn to the brutal tortures in a camp.

by Maria Mamontova


The film starts with a sunny yet surreal reminiscence, a vivid dream, where Anne and Hanneli play hide-and-seek. But it is a trap: the film is hardly sunny, nor is it happy. The real Anne Frank, the prototype, later spent two years in hiding and half a year in concentration camps, where she died in 1945. In 1947 her diary was published and she was publicly recognised as a writer. The viewer disclaimer warns: "For dramatic purposes parts have been condensed or adapted." Here it is 1942, it's sunny and there are no ominous signs. Girls are playing hide-and-seek at Anne's place, and Otto Frank, Anne's father, is working. So why does it feel like the beginning of the end?
It is important to understand that the story is told by the 14-year-old Hannah Goslar, so the whole narration is very subjective. Her world is black-and-white: Anne is the only light in it, other friends are mean, boys always get in the way, and there are German soldiers who are pure evil. As Hannah grows older, her attitude changes, and so do the characters. Those who were just 'parents and other boring adults' now have actual personalities. This narrative technique is smart: it allows us to see Anne Frank not only as a victim or a survivor from the history books. We now can see her as a child with a vivid personality, a friend, or sometimes even an enemy — everything is exaggerated when you're 14. In the eyes of a childhood friend she is complex and colourful. Anne is a strong character, but not a perfect one. There are great strengths and even greater flaws, there are both beauty and sorrow in her story. It might be difficult to always sympathise with Anne, but there are inspiring moments. She is a big dreamer, and she seeks a happy future. But we already know the future.
The picture is decent yet quite typical — as the tone of the story changes, the colours shift from the warm and sunny range to a dark and dreary one. When Hannah is still happy, everything is bright and cosy: pink streets, warm brown interiors and colourful clothes. Later in the camp, even the skies are always pale and gloomy. This colour shift is not new: it's one of the classical techniques, and sometimes it is boring. But the performance is remarkable. Josephine Arendsen (Hannah) and Aiko Beemsterboer (Anne) perfectly portray the transformation from careless and happy attitude with some occasional concerns to constant anxiety and eventual apathy. As Hannah becomes less vulnerable under the pressure of rapidly progressing adolescence, Anne cannot escape eternal fear and despair despite her relative maturity.
Although the characters are well-developed, the dialogue sounds weak. Such meaningless promises as 'we'll be together forever' don't evoke many feelings. The fights don't seem to make much sense other than making the relationships seem more life-like. But some aspects are indeed powerful. I honestly caught myself crying a couple of times because of some little details. These details are indeed one of the strongest parts of the film. Religious traditions are portrayed especially carefully — every sign and every action is meaningful. The small things — the words, the songs and the prayers — is what helps people in occupied cities and then concentration camps to preserve their cultural identity. The maintenance of Jewish cultural and religious heritage is not the main subject. It is not as prominent as the friendship theme, but it is still noticeable. My Best Friend Anne Frank is one special example of how the smallest elements can be more gripping than the whole story.
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