Last night saw the first part of this new five part adaptation of the famous diaries of Anne Frank, which – apart from the Bible – have become the most read works of non-fiction in history.
The episode began with Anne Frank’s birthday in July 1942. She’d been given a red diary and started to write the entries that would become a frank and telling view of the Nazi occupation of Holland through the eyes of this intelligent and resilient young girl.
Anne’s 13th birthday came just two weeks before she and her family were forced to go into hiding as ever more Jews disappeared to fates that we now know were unspeakably horrific.
The Frank’s lives were increasingly restricted by the anti-Jewish decrees that dictated what Jews could and could not do, but the decision to go into hiding was prompted when 16 year old Margot Frank received ‘call up’ papers.
In 1942, Jews receiving these call-up notices were to report to the so-called “work” camp Westerbork. From there, thousands upon thousands of Jews were sent by trains to concentration camps where the majority of them were killed.
Fleeing the Netherlands at that time was almost impossible because its neighbouring countries were also Nazi occupied, so the family took refuge in the attics of Otto Frank’s warehouse.
These cramped and ill equipped few rooms were to become home to the Frank family for two long years and the only people who knew of their whereabouts were members of Otto Frank’s staff, Mr Kleiman, Mr Kugler, Bep and Miep who risked their lives to help the family survive.
However, the Franks were soon joined by another family, the Van Daan’s – parents Petronella, Hermann and their son Peter. Anne didn’t think much of Peter at first but in the confines of their surroundings, their friendship grew out of a love of books and amateur dramatics.
But two families – with very different lifestyles – in such a small place led to tensions and arguments and a slide into depression for Edith Franks which she struggled to cope with as her fear of capture failed to recede.
We left part one as the two families were living a life of uneasy camaraderie that was enlivened only by the fun and sense of make-the-best-of-it on the part of Anne and Peter.
Now, for me, I’m not entirely sure what was missing but I think it may have been, well, drama!
The first fifteen minutes or so felt rather like an educational film; the sort we used to struggle hard to stay awake through in a warm classroom on a rainy Friday afternoon.
In fact, in the first twenty minutes or so, I felt the whole thing was only held together and made watchable by Ellie Kendrick’s evocative and effortless portrayal of Anne.
Even though the rest of the cast boasts some heavyweight names, such as Lesley Sharp as Petronella, Iain Glen as Otto and Tamsin Greig as Edith, I didn’t feel the depth of their characters and it still felt like some sort of public information film.
However, towards the end, although I still wasn’t getting any evocation of real fear or drama, I began to warm to the characters a lot more.
This was aided in the main by Ellie’s narration of Anne’s text; Anne’s humour and in some ways, irreverence, shone through and Ellie Kendrick brought that to life, but nonetheless, I still felt at the end that she was really carrying the entire thing.
What did you think?