Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, Where is Anne Frank? is a poignant, lovingly detailed animated film following the adventures of Kitty, the human manifestation of the imaginary friend of Anne Frank, world famous teenage diarist and victim of the Holocaust.
As a lonely girl hiding alongside her family in a crowded annex to avoid Nazi persecution, Anne invented Kitty as an outlet for her secrets and fears. Each entry in her famous diary was addressed to Kitty as if Anne were writing to a beloved friend. As the film opens, “one year from now” in the Frank House in Amsterdam, Kitty awakens from the printed page to find herself surrounded by tourists and museum guards, with Anne nowhere to be found. What follows is a fanciful tale of magical realism as Kitty embarks on a dreamlike journey to uncover the truth of what became of Anne after the last diary entry was penned.
The story unfolds in a classic, hand-drawn style of animation that has its own sort of charm. Aimed at an exclusively younger demographic, Folman’s screenplay does its level best to introduce audiences to this undeniably dark period of history without overwhelming them with the grief and horrors. Kitty is seeing the world with fresh eyes and struggling to make sense of it, relying on the connection she forges with Peter, a pickpocket who falls speedily and perplexingly in love with her. Amongst all this, the film also draws pointed parallels between Anne’s experiences beneath the Nazi regime and the current plight of asylum seekers in Europe, a family of whom Kitty befriends along the way.
Softening the tragedy of Anne’s fate by reframing the tale as a love story between a boy and the anthropomorphised personification of Anne’s private diary is certainly a fresh take on the subject. By contextualising the grim reality of the situation within Kitty’s own experiences of love and her sorrow over the loss of her best friend, Folman takes us on a fanciful flight of the imagination that, while soaring to impressive heights, never quite manages to stick the landing.