Anne Frank: Parallel Stories provides a reminder of how excellent and vital Anne Frank’s diary is while giving it thought-provoking and intelligent context. Unfortunately, it is harmed somewhat by a bizarre framing device involving Twitter hashtags that dampens its impact, though not enough to stop it from being a worthwhile film.
Told in a visual scrapbook style interspersing still images with film reel footage and interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, as well as regular narration and readings of Anne Frank’s diary by Helen Mirren, the film offers both an insight into Frank’s life and the lives of many like her who endured the same horrors. Mirren delivers Frank’s words with emotion and passion and definitely provides enough of a framework to make the strange Twitter-based portions of the film unnecessary. These sections, which feature a young woman touring Europe to visit major places linked to the Holocaust, feel deliberately tailored to a younger audience and are awkward at best. Ignoring that element, however, allows a closer look at the parts of the film that work well.
At their core are the excerpts of Frank’s diary, but also a series of interviews with survivors that provide an insight into the impact the trauma has had not only on them but on their families, and how subsequent generations choose to represent or understand it. These interviews shine with authenticity and the passion with which the words are spoken truly resonates. The film creates parallels between these survivors, who were children at the time of the Holocaust, and Frank. It is eager to show the massive, spiralling impact the events had, and to stress that the astronomical six million Jewish people murdered are no simple mathematical figure, but real lives whose families are deeply impacted for generations, across Europe.
Their deeply personal stories are also a window into the lasting trauma in their own lives, each tale slightly different but sharing in common the theme of unimaginable cruelty and needless suffering. They are the triumph of the film, and perhaps more time spent with them would have been more valuable than the barely believable Twitter journey that seeks to tie them together. Ultimately though, Anne Frank: Parallel Stories is a worthwhile and sobering experience, and it’s always valuable to hear Frank’s words read aloud, especially by someone who does it as well as Mirren.
Dir: Sabina Fedeli, Anna Migotto
Cast: Helen Mirren
Prd: Franco di Sarro, Didi Gnocchi
Music: Lele Marchitelli
Runtime: 95 minutes
Anne Frank: Parallel Stories is in UK cinemas from January 27th 2020.