A continuing source of fascination in the Western literary canon, Anne Frank’s iconic diary has been endlessly debated and analyzed. So what is the point of yet another iteration? With the troubling rise in the American populace unaware of the significance of the Holocaust, any pedagogical tool that explains the destruction wrought by the Third Reich is a valuable commodity.
Enter Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, a project supported and authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in order to bring Frank’s story to a new audience. While it may not seem an intuitive choice, the synergy between Frank’s lucid and precocious view of the world and a keen artistic interpretation of her words lends itself to a new, and moving, experience. Adapter Ari Folman (whose film Waltz with Bashir is arguably one of the best animated films ever to have been produced in Israel) and artist David Polonsky bring a fresh perspective to the saga of Anne and her family, and their fateful time in that Amsterdam Achterhuis. While the words of Anne’s diary have been ingrained in our societal consciousness for close to seventy years, their effect on inquisitive minds is still as potent as ever. The addition of a visual component not only ensures that Anne’s teenage musings will resonate with a contemporary audience, but also makes them feel even more visceral, immediate, and tragic.
The task of translating Anne Frank’s diary into visuals would be a challenge for any artist, but Folman and Polonsky do so with verve and care; Folman is judicious with what he presents. There is so much emotion at stake that it must have been difficult to edit down and rearrange the original material, but the compromises made for this adaptation are astute and stay in accordance with the diary’s essence.
In our modern context, it is sometimes difficult to separate Anne Frank the human being from Anne Frank the metonym for the tragedy of the Shoah; Frank’s story is synonymous with the human spirit in times of utter darkness. This graphic adaptation of her diary will go a long to way make sure new generations of readers experience the heartbreak and humane triumph of one of the most inspiring teenagers in history.