Storm, rain, thunder: the Amsterdam of the Israeli animation filmmaker Ari Folman looks like a rather gloomy place, in the opening scene of Where is Anne Frank† On the canal opposite the Anne Frank House, a fire barrel stands next to a flapping tent that belongs to a Malian refugee family. Inside, a miracle takes place after closing time: the display case with one of Anne’s original diaries bursts apart and the letters on the paper begin to dance through the room. The streaks of ink transform into a red-haired girl, Kitty, better known as Sweet Kitty, the name of the fictional girl Anne addressed in her diary.
He is without a doubt resourceful, the Anne Frank film by Folman, director of the animation masterpiece Waltz with Bashir (2008) and the more divisive science fiction experiment, part animated and part shot with real actors The Congress (2013).
In Where is Anne Frank – the title is written without a question mark – the diary is a girl of Anne’s age. And it seems Folman wasn’t quite sure what to do with that find. Sometimes Kitty is invisible to her surroundings, other times she is perceived as a real girl. But if you take this ambiguity for granted, you will be taken with Anne’s life and her posthumous influence from a fresh perspective. In contemporary Amsterdam, Kitty tries to find out what happened to Anne after her diary stories stopped. During the Second World War, she has intensive conversations with Anne and we see how the Nazis force the girl step by step towards that world-famous hiding place in the Secret Annex.
Folman interweaves those two timelines relatively smoothly. Sometimes he even takes the time for playful asides: an excellent scene in which we learn about the Secret Annex as the vacant building of the company where Anne’s father Otto produced a thickener for jam, followed by a witty fictional commercial about the importance of firm jam in wartime.
In contrast, there is a remarkable missionary urge. Where is Anne Frank can be viewed as teaching material for a large part of the playing time, with chapters about how we are in danger of forgetting the significance of Anne’s testimony in the present tense. This is underlined by a segment in which asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies in contemporary Amsterdam revolt against deportation. Nothing to the detriment of the filmmaker who finds parallels between different time periods, but these refugees seem drawn to it at the last minute. They look like extras.
Where is Anne Frank is an unbalanced film full of beautiful, sometimes even unique, but carelessly worked out ideas.
Where is Anne Frank
Directed by Ari Folman
Dutch dubbing: Ida Verspaandonk, Anne Buhre, Julius de Vriend, Daysha Ligeon
99 min., on display in 44 screens.