The Dutch movie My Best Friend Anne Frank is the latest in a long line of stories trying to capture the original diarist’s story that captivated the entire world. In this version, the story of Anne Frank is told through the perspective of her best friend, Hannah ‘Hanneli’ Goslar. Goslar’s story is heartbreaking and compelling in its own right. Seeing the horrors of the Holocaust from these two teenagers was a sobering reality check.
Stories of Anne Frank have reached a level of mythology that has taken away from the very tragic human story that was the life of the young woman whose story impacted so many. In many ways, this has taken away from the realities that were the unspeakable atrocities inflicted on the Jewish people by the nazis. For so many people, Anne Frank’s diary that was discovered after her murder was their first exposure to the Holocaust. The problem with this is that the diary was written before Frank had experienced the worst horrors of the Holocaust, and so it has led so many to the impression that still, as Frank expressed, people are essentially good.
What made My Best Friend Anne Frank work so well in its re-telling of this real-life tragedy was its authenticity. Anne is shown not to be some perfect saint, but a perfectly human teenager with all the awkwardness and chaos that entails. She’s shown to be a deeply loving and dependable friend, contrasted with the ability to be mean and petty, and that’s the true human experience. Josephine Arendsen as Hannneli and Aiko Beemsterboer as Anne are perfectly cast in their respective roles and play and play so well off of each other.
This entire movie was an ode to the power of friendship. In real life, these two navigated a World War, and tragedy that would destroy so much. It was endearing, seeing their reliance on one another in one of the darkest chapters in human history. Their relationship was filled with ups and downs that are the hallmark of teenage friendships. The intensity and all-consuming nature of these friendships was captured brilliantly. Even in the contexts of what was happening with their respective families, they never forgot about one another, and were able to turn to one another in the depths of hell one last time.
This movie was also a necessary reminder of the importance of Holocaust education in the present day. In a world where stories like Maus are banned from public schools, we as a society need to consider the importance of remembering. The Holocaust was not an abstract event that happened to figments of imagination. It was a real tragedy that happened to real people, like Anne Frank and Hannah Goslar. We are the last generation that will get to hear these stories first hand, and so portraying them in films such as this is of the utmost importance.
My Best Friend Anne Frank is not an easy movie to watch. However, it’s an important one. Ensuring that these true stories of the Holocaust are remembered is a necessary endeavor for us all. If we never confront the prejudices and hate that led to these unspeakable horrors, we will have disgraced the memory of Anne Frank and the millions of others who were murdered in the Holocaust. Having a different perspective on a first-hand account that impacted so many keeps Anne Frank’s story alive for generations to come.
My Best Friend Anne Frank is currently available to stream on Netflix.