“My Best Friend Annie Frank” is based on the real-life story of Hannah Elizebeth Goslar, a.k.a. Hanneli Goslar, and her friendship with Anne Frank. Creative liberty is taken by the makers, and some scenes have been dramatized for the purpose of the screen. The film has been directed by Ben Sombogaart, and the screenplay has been written by Marian Batavier and Paul Ruven.
When we think about the holocaust or the kind of environment that would have been there during that time, it feels like we are creating a make-believe reality that serves as a potentially great source for stories and films. But if, for a moment, you start putting yourself in that state of fear and total depravity, then you start getting uncomfortable. The moment you see yourself as a part of that utterly cruel and horrifying world, your viewpoint changes, and the feeling seeps inside to such an extent that it molds your sensibilities.
Hannah Goslar was unfortunate to survive and bear the burden of such a loss or was she lucky enough to at least come out alive of the camps that spelled death, is a matter of perspective. Hannah Goslar was in Bergan-Belson, which was a transfer camp. Jews were exchanged for German prisoners of war. So there was a hope that they would survive. The work was not as grueling as it was in normal camps. Hannah’s father had somehow arranged the paperwork for getting them exchanged and going to Palestine.
But still, it is a miracle that hope still stays alive even in the dingiest of tunnels. Hannah knew that she would see the light at the end of the tunnel one day. She never believed that her life was going to end or that she would always be stuck in that dreary lifestyle. It’s the most fascinating aspect of the human spirit. The survival instinct is so great that we adapt to our circumstances, and then when we look back in retrospect, we ourselves get amazed at how we were able to survive such excruciating circumstances. We did use our imaginations to recreate the camps for our films, but if you ask a survivor like Hannah, she would tell you that it is nothing like what they experienced back then.
When the subject matter is so sensitive and has occurred in reality, the filmmaker bears an additional burden. The most difficult part is transporting the viewers to that world, which still haunts those who were a part of it and remember it as a vivid dream from which they cannot seem to escape no matter how hard they try.
Also Read: ‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’ Summary & Review
Does ‘My Best Friend Annie Frank’ Create An Impact?
World War II put all the Jews in a state of extreme despondency. The gaunt structure of individuals deprived of food and basic human necessities still remains fresh from the history books we read. The celebrated scene from Spielberg’s masterpiece, Schindler’s List, where Oscar Schindler says, “I could have saved one more,” still wrenches our hearts. My Best Friend Anne Frank fails to create the impact for me, which I expect out of a film based on such a subject matter. It is a loosely knit screenplay that lets you down. The moments of that innocent friendship between Anne and Hannah have their own authentic element, but they never make you invested in the characters. The plight in the camps gives you a pang, but again, they seem to operate only at the surface and give nothing new as compared to what we have seen before. The last bit, where Hannah finally sees Anne in a deplorable state, does catch you off guard, but it is too little too late.
The performances by Aiko Beemsterboer as Anne and Josephine Arendson have their own charm. Unfortunately, the writing is unable to create that conflict that arises from depravity and human psychology itself. The kind of convulsions the human spirit had to face could not be witnessed in the film. The extraordinary precedents that we have all been privy to, make a comparison inevitable, which in turn makes the writing of ‘My Best Friend Annie Frank’ film look a bit frail.
Not giving into the spiritual transcendence that a cinephile expected out of the film, “My Best Friend Annie Frank” is worth watching for its honest performances and a story that once again reminds you of the strength of the human spirit and the legacy of those few who left their imprints on the sands of time.