Melissa Gilbert in The Diary of Anne Frank (1980)

Frustrations of Anne Frank

I will start this review as I have with some of my reviews of other historical movies by bemoaning the British education system of the 80s as I was never taught anything about Anne Frank. I have learned about her since but I am sure there are many like me who look back on their school years and feel a sense that they were betrayed by an education system which was stuck in its ways of teaching us the same old dry lessons without any care as to whether there were better things to be teaching us.

Anyway my usual moan out of the way with I get to this 1980 TV movie of "The Diary of Anne Frank" and I will say now that if I had been given this to watch as a teen during the 80s it would have grabbed me in a way that dry history lessons didn't. It is a good adaptation of the story made specifically for a younger audience who will enjoy the energy and bubbliness of the movie whilst still being gripped by the touching and hard hitting story. And as such, as a movie made for a young audience it has the right mix of cast from the fun Doris Roberts to the more dramatic Maximilian Schell and Joan Plowright plus of course the perkiness of a young Melissa Gilbert as Anne Frank.

Now when approached as a movie for a younger audience to make history come to life it works. But when approached as a movie for grown ups who fondly remember the 1959 "The Diary of Anne Frank" with Millie Perkins it will be hard going. Basically this TV movie version is perky, seriously perky and very American which makes it feel less authentic. In fact the perkiness and energy of it ends up distracting from the depth of the story such as the early scenes of Anne messing around, it's too comedic and so takes away from Anne's messing around coming from being cooped up.

What this all boils down to is that "The Diary of Anne Frank" works as an introductory movie for a young audience. But it is certainly not for those looking for a more authentic version of Anne Frank's story with the bubbliness and Americanization being distracting.