Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Novel Adaptation

The human imag­i­na­tion can be an extra­or­di­nary cop­ing device in times of trou­ble, a tiny win­dow pro­vid­ing men­tal escape from what­ev­er cell fate has con­signed us to.

Diarist and aspir­ing pro­fes­sion­al writer Anne Frank, who died in the Bergen-Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp at the age of 15, chafed at her now-uni­ver­sal­ly-known con­fine­ment in the Secret Annex. She chafed at her mother’s author­i­ty and the seem­ing­ly effort­less saint­li­ness of her old­er sis­ter. Doc­u­ment­ing her dai­ly phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al real­i­ty offered tem­po­rary respite from it.

The lib­er­at­ing pow­er of the cre­ative mind is one of the aspects writer Ari Fol­man and illus­tra­tor David Polon­sky sought to tease out when adapt­ing Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as a graph­ic nov­el.

The graph­ic nov­el for­mat decreed that entire pas­sages would be cut or con­densed. Polon­sky can use a sin­gle pan­el to show logis­tics it took Anne para­graphs to describe. The inter­per­son­al con­flicts she dwelt on are now con­veyed by facial expres­sions and body lan­guage.

As with Sid Jacob­son and Ernie Colón’s 2010 Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Autho­rized Graph­ic Biog­ra­phythe diary’s small stage is expand­ed to give read­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those unac­quaint­ed with the orig­i­nal text, a his­tor­i­cal con­text for under­stand­ing the wider social impli­ca­tions of Anne’s tragedy.

But this graph­ic retelling is unique in that it traf­fics in mag­ic real­ist visu­als that should play well with 21st-cen­tu­ry youth, who cut their teeth on CGI, fast-paced edits, and stream­ing teen-focused enter­tain­ments where­in char­ac­ters are apt to break the fourth wall or break into song.

These are the read­ers to whom the project is most inten­tion­al­ly pitched. As Fol­man told Teen Vogue’s Emma Sar­ran Web­ster:

I tru­ly believe that in a few years, when the very last sur­vivors will have died, the angle that will be tak­en from the sto­ry will be that with every year, we are 10 years fur­ther away from the orig­i­nal. […] There is a severe threat that the things we have to learn from it will not be taught and learned if we don’t find a new lan­guage for them. So any new lan­guage in my opin­ion is blessed, as long as it stays with­in the frame­work and reach­es young audi­ences by means of their tools, which are now very visu­al.

Ergo, Kit­ty, Anne’s nick­name for her diary, has been per­son­i­fied, emerg­ing from the lit­tle plaid book’s pages like Peter Pan’s shad­ow, ear atten­tive­ly cocked toward the secrets Anne whis­pers into it.

The melo­dra­mat­ic Mrs. van Daan’s prized fur coat has an anthro­po­mor­phized rab­bit head col­lar, capa­ble of join­ing in the dia­logue.

Polon­sky pays homage to artists Edvard Munch, whose “degen­er­a­tive” work Hitler had removed from Ger­man muse­ums, and Gus­tav Klimt, who paint­ed many works that were con­fis­cat­ed from their Jew­ish own­ers by Nazi decree.

Young read­ers’ mod­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties also guid­ed Folman’s approach to the text. The spir­it of the orig­i­nal is pre­served, but cer­tain phras­ings have been giv­en a 21st cen­tu­ry update.

The snarky Secret Annex menus and diet tips he allows his hero­ine harken to the direct address of var­i­ous meta teen come­dies, as well as the blis­ter­ing par­o­dy of the Sara­je­vo Sur­vival Guide, a pur­port­ed trav­el guide writ­ten dur­ing the Siege.

Noble goal of engag­ing the next gen­er­a­tion aside, there are no doubt some purists who will view these inno­va­tions as impo­si­tion. Rest assured that Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graph­ic Adap­ta­tion is sanc­tioned by Anne Frank Fonds, the char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion estab­lished by Anne’s father, Otto.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Only Known Footage of Anne Frank

Read the Poignant Let­ter Sent to Anne Frank by George Whit­man, Own­er of Paris’ Famed Shake­speare & Co Book­shop (1960): “If I Sent This Let­ter to the Post Office It Would No Longer Reach You”

How Art Spiegel­man Designs Com­ic Books: A Break­down of His Mas­ter­piece, Maus

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Novem­ber 4 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates Louise Jor­dan Miln’s “Woo­ings and Wed­dings in Many Climes (1900). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.