NOTE: This review was written under a previous rating system. Some of the older reviews may express opinions and judgment calls that are not in line with our current standards.1959
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
I think one of the marks of a great director is his ability to make you feel like you are right there in the movie—like you are experiencing the same things that the characters are. I suppose, then, that George Stevens must have been a great director after all, in spite of what I had thought about his movie making abilities before, because when the refugees in the secret annex in The Diary of Anne Frank have to go through two months of dealing with each other’s immaturity, immodesty, harshness, brashness and flirtatiousness, all in the space of about ten minutes of running time—I tell you, I felt like I’d gone through two months of it, too.
There were a couple of things in the first few minutes of The Diary of Anne Frank that hinted that I probably wouldn’t love the movie—nothing shocking, exactly; Anne takes off some of her layers of clothing in front of everyone; her older sister and their teenage annex-mate Peter bashfully flirt a little; a noticeably low neckline is briefly displayed, and Anne rejoices over her collection of movie star posters. A little further on in the movie, we run into some of Anne’s immaturity and lack of “dignity”, as her mother called it—she is quoted as having said she would “rather die than wear overshoes”; she misses her old freedom to “run and shout and jump”; she steals Peter’s shoes and then wrestles with him before she will give them back, and she refuses, with about as much “dignity” as a three-year-old would have under the same circumstances, to let her concerned mother see her tongue. The poor family relationships started getting to me at that point; not so much because they were so poor, but because they were so irritating. Anne’s mother has to appeal to Mr. Frank to get Anne to do anything, and Anne can’t get along well with her mother or her sister; Peter’s mother teases him coarsely; her husband mocks her; she tells him to “Shut up”.
I can put up with a great deal in a movie, I think, in the way of irritating dialogue and poor acting, and I’m a great one for waiting to see if problem issues are resolved at the end, so sticking it out for the sake of a review (especially of a film that has some significance to it) is usually something I do automatically. I started wondering if I would do it this time, when the movie started to really focus on Peter’s mother. She tells Anne about how many boyfriends she had when she was a teenager, and how they came around because “we were wearing our skirts a lot shorter in those days, and I had such good looking legs.” She tells her that she’s still got good looking legs, and raises her long skirt above her knees to prove her point—and she appeals to Anne’s father for an opinion. “How ‘bout it, Mr. Frank?” she says, with her own husband and Mr. Frank’s wife right there to call on, if she wanted to. No one really seems shocked enough about it for my taste (of course, that “no one” isn’t counting my mother and sister, who were watching with me). Her husband swears somewhere in that scene, not because of that incident, but because he thinks his wife is talking too much.
Again, I generally like to think that character flaws will be addressed during the course of a movie, and my hope is often justified. But when, in the next scene, Peter’s mother wishes aloud, in front of everyone, that she had met Mr. Frank before she married her husband, and then brazenly kisses Mr. Frank on the mouth… I just couldn’t take any more. I quit watching The Diary of Anne Frank after about fifteen minutes. I’d already filled half a page with negative content, even with my small handwriting, and there were still two and a half hours left in the movie. It wasn’t a requested review, so I didn’t have any obligation to keep watching for anyone else’s sake, and it seemed to me that, even if I knew somehow that things got better after that point, there wasn’t any kind of turn-around the characters could undergo that would help me stomach Anne’s disrespect and ostentation, the grating family clashes, the language and Peter’s mother—all put together—any better.
It’s not that I would be unwilling to review the entire movie for a good reason. I just can’t think of a good reason right now. I am not going to try to give a rating for the entire movie; that would be unfair, but I’d give the first fifteen minutes a good, strong Not Worth Watching. Maybe someone else can review the rest of the movie.