Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graph­ic Adaptation

Anne Frank; Ari Fol­man, adapt.; David Polon­sky, illus.
  • Review
By – September 24, 2018

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.

Discussion Questions