The Diary of Anne Frank Movie Review
The Diary of Anne Frank is a 1959 drama film directed by George Stevens and based on the famous personal diary of a Jewish girl Anne Frank written during WWII.
It tells the story of a young Jewish girl and her family who hide from the Nazis along with another family in a hidden office in Amsterdam. The plot is simple, but very effective. This is another classic film limited by confined space. They did wonders with such a small place thanks to a plethora of colorful characters and a really moving story. The direction from George Stevens is absolutely superb as well and he brought sophistication and a polished and professional feel to the movie. I also adore the cinematography here, it is superb with some great imagery of Amsterdam and beautiful and uplifting aerial shots.
But the acting is absolutely fantastic. I was not a fan of Millie Perkins early on, but she eventually got better and more sympathetic. She really did a superb job for an unknown and that is great because her role is central for the movie as the protagonist is essential. Joseph Schildkraut did a really good job with his performance in a role of Otto, the father of Anne. His performance is very natural and overall respectable. And of course Shelley Winters is great as always and she made her character really stand out. Ed Wynn also did a nice, comedic turn as Albert Dussell. And all of the other actors and actresses all did well with what they got. The acting overall is really admirable here.
As for the characters, they are phenomenal across the board. Even ones with smaller roles made an impression. Petronella van Daan is a really likable woman and she for once is a realistic character unlike most too lady-like women of the age in Hollywood. I did not particularly like Peter at first, but he changed my mind later on and his relationship with Anne brought a lot of tenderness to this picture. Margot Frank is also superb as the protagonist’s sister and she really came through near the end, as most of the characters did as well when you think about it. Otto is a wonderful warm father and Anne’s mother also lended to many dramatic sequences here and that troubled mother-daughter relationship was one of the many greatly explored themes. Albert Dussell is literally a comic relief here, but a grounded one as his character is so realistic and his behavior and everything about it is very well portrayed.
As for Anne, she is naturally the highlight and she lifts the movie to a whole new level. What I liked about her is that she is not portrayed as a saint which just goes to show how phenomenal the writing is in this movie. She was rather annoying and flawed in the beginning, but although not at first, I liked that decision later on as it is, as everything in this movie, very realistic. She is a flawed person just like the rest of us, but she redeemed herself at the end and she wanted to be a better person. Her character is so likable and warm that you cannot fail to love her.
Speaking of her, she is the reason why this movie existed in the first place, but also why it is so moving and smart. She gave such powerful lines here that I was just astounded at her cleverness and common sense, so incredible at such a young age. The Diary of Anne Frank has many of the best quotes ever in film history and they just moved me at so many levels as they’re so incredibly inspirational.
“I know it’s terrible trying to have any faith when people are doing such horrible… But you know what I sometimes think? I think the world may be going through a phase, the way I was with mother. It’ll pass. Maybe not hundreds of years, but someday. – I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart”.
That is the best quote here. It is not only so inspirational and just moving, but it also showcases the inherent childlike optimism and good-hearted nature that this girl possessed. It is one of the most inspirational, heartwarming and one of the smartest films about war ever made. But that is not the only reason why it works. It works on so many levels. It perfectly explores how people when confined are their biggest enemies themselves and that is showcased in yet another extraordinary quote that is so perceptive and observant. But it just has a lot to tell about war when comparing it to a rough phase. That inspirational approach is lifted by a very good score and terrific scenery and photography accompanied with those speeches. And the relationship between Anne and Peter is so heartwarming but also heartbreaking as it shows how love can be conceived in such terrible times, but is doomed which is why it is so sad.
What I also love about the film is how it stayed in one place and rarely became a war picture, but rather a drama about war. But dramatic scenes when done are thrilling. I love the tension conveyed in a sequence where the Nazis find their place. The scene is prolonged when the camera follows Peter’s cat as he breaks a plate thus warning the Nazis. It is so tense and just brilliantly executed that I was thrilled. I also love the beginning of the movie and although inferior to the rest of the picture somehow, it still introduces you to the characters in a good manner. And the ending is so perfect and the flashback structure is so classy here. The running time is perfect. It needed to be three hours long, but it never was boring or tired which is a testament to how good the script is and how engaging the story and especially the characters and themes are.
The tone is great, very dramatic and at times nicely comedic. The dialogue is absolutely tremendous as stated before with so many quotable lines. The Diary of Anne Frank really does have some of the best quotes ever. It is also very memorable, moving and always involving, well shot and directed and at times even artistic. The message is so strong and the realism is evident. The pacing is phenomenal as the movie is never dull despite its length. And it is a well adapted movie that never feels rushed or pretentious.