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'The Diary of Anne Frank,' This Time on Acorn, is Always Important Viewing
June 11, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 
If there’s a more important diary from the 20th century than Anne Frank’s, it hasn’t yet surfaced.
 
That’s why a new production of The Diary of Anne Frank, which becomes available Monday on the streaming service Acorn, remains invaluable even when it’s covering ground we’ve traveled before. 
 
The BBC has divided this new edition into five parts, starting just before the Frank family goes into hiding in Amsterdam in 1942.
 
The Franks were Jewish. The Germans, who had just conquered and occupied Holland, were rounding up Jews and, it was already clear, killing them. With escape not an option, Otto Frank (Iain Glen) found a hiding place – several rooms tucked behind a bookcase on an ordinary street in Amsterdam.
 
Anne (Ellie Kendrick, top) had received a blank diary a week earlier, for her 13th birthday, and she couldn’t wait to start writing in it. She had not, however, expected the life she was chronicling to be so confined. She knew the Germans had forbidden Jews from going to the movies or riding buses. She hadn’t yet connected the dot to the endgame, and her parents had shielded Anne and her sister from what they first suspected, and then knew, to be the harsh reality.
 
That’s part of what gives Anne’s diary such impact. On the one hand, she knows there’s danger. On the other, she writes like a typical teenager, ruminating on ordinary things and ordinary emotions. She cuts pictures of movie stars out of magazines.
 
Our awareness that a cold-blooded force wants to kill her simply out of demented hatred haunts every moment of the story, reinforcing the message – the prayer, really – of “never again.”
 
Kendrick plays Anne as a likable kid who adores her family and isn’t driven completely insane by being cooped up with them for, literally, years. She’s mercurial, which is typical for the age and reflected in the diary.
 
She’s perhaps a bit less petulant than the diary sometimes sounds. We don’t hear her bluntest observations on the matriarch of the family that moves in with them, the Van Daans, though we do get some of her reaction to patriarch Hermann Van Daan (Ron Cook) and a lot on their teenage son Peter (Geoff Breton).
 
At first, Anne is mostly annoyed that Peter got to bring his cat while she had to leave hers' behind. Later her interest in Peter starts to change – although here, as with everything else about Anne’s life, there’s no resolution.
 
The Germans found the Franks in 1944 and sent to concentration camps, where Anne fell ill and died in early 1945. No production of The Diary of Anne Frank will ever get around that sad truth, nor will it ever make less poignant her opening lines about how she’s pretty sure no one else will ever really care about the musings of a teenage girl.
 
Talk about a role no one wants: Anne Frank became the face of the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis. The five half hours of this series walk us through the months that led her there, making her and the people around her painfully human and utterly at a loss to understand why someone wants to kill them. 
 
They aren’t alone. There’s no sane explanation, which is why this carefully produced character drama delivers precisely the impact it must.
 
 
 
 
 
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