Even without the clearance to use her famous diary, ABC and executive producer Hans Proppe have come up with a stunning tribute to Anne Frank and those who risked their lives to help her family. Traditionally, Anne’s story has been told through the entries in her diary, which begin a month before her family went into hiding and end with the Gestapo raid on their attic hideout two years later. This four-hour mini, which encompasses Anne’s life before, during and after the “secret annex,” was initially marred by controversy when Steven Spielberg bowed out as exec producer because the project was not officially sanctioned by the Anne Frank Foundation.
No matter. The movie has an impressive enough pedigree of its own. The pic features a stellar cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Brenda Blethyn and Lili Taylor. Real-life confidante to the Frank family Miep Gies serves as a consultant.
Based on the biography by Melissa Muller, the project explores as authentically as possible Anne’s life, from a carefree teenager in Amsterdam to her last days at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Press materials further claim this to be the first dramatic work about Anne’s life to reveal the identity of her betrayers.
Director Robert Dornhelm carefully paces the story to convey the heartbreak as the layers of Anne’s former life are stripped away by oppression. As the story progresses, the movie is drained of its color as we move from the vibrant streets of Amsterdam to the muted light of their attic home and finally to the hellish nightmare of the concentration camps. Part two of the mini carries a TV-14 viewer advisory because of several graphic scenes but, given the subject matter, it is a very honest and necessary portrayal.
As Anne, Hannah Taylor Gordon is a real find. Her performance encompasses the full range of Anne’s experience with poignancy. Kingsley is simply superb as patriarch Otto Frank, and his presence is sorely missed for the quarter of the film that his character is separated from the action.
As Mrs. Van Pels, Blethyn tends to overshadow the demure Tatjana Blacher as Edith Frank. But both give fine performances as does the rest of the cast, especially Lili Taylor as Miep Gies.
At times, Kirk Ellis’ dialogue is too self-aware, dropping huge hints as to the ultimate importance of Anne’s diary. But mostly, the script does an adequate job conveying a desperation to maintain a sense of normalcy amid insanity.
The house on Prinsengracht street and the concentration camps are painstakingly recreated and add a great deal to the authenticity of the film. However, review tape lacked other final technical credits.