“On 4 August 1944, Anne Marie Frank is arrested and deported,” begins the trailer for #AnneFrank: Parallel Stories.
“She disappeared, along with 1.5 million other kids and teens like her.”
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In this unusual film, Dame Helen Mirren retraces Anne Frank’s life through the pages of her diary, a document that is frequently praised for offering up one of the most moving stories that anyone, anywhere, has managed to tell about World War II.
Of course, we already know Anne’s all-too-short story by heart: from her childhood in Germany, to the 761 days she spent hidden in the secret annex on the Prinsengrach. We know that she and her family were betrayed. That she and her sister Margot were spared immediate death in the Auschwitz gas chambers and instead sent to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in northern Germany. That, in February 1945, the Frank sisters died of typhus, just two weeks before allied forces liberated the Nazi death camp.
We know the story, all of us. We’ve read it in her widely-published diary, we’ve seen it portrayed films, and we’ve heard it discussed in radio shows and documentaries. #AnneFrank, however, does something different with her tale. Because, as promised in the title, it takes a look at the lives of five other young girls – Arianna Szörenyi, Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, Helga Weiss and sisters Andra, and Tatiana Bucci – who were deported to concentration camps, too.
You can watch the trailer for #AnneFrank: Parallel Stories below:
It is worth noting that these ‘parallel stories’ end on a happier note than Anne’s: each of these girls escaped the Holocaust. Now, as grown women, they speak calmly and frankly about their horrifying experiences: the crowded train wagons they were forced into, the terrible things they witnessed, the people they lost.
“We couldn’t bring ourselves to approach the barbed wire that separated us from our mother because that ghost was no longer our mum,” one of the survivors shares.
They share memories from the camps, too, and bare their arms to reveal the identification numbers tattooed into their skin by Nazi guards. They speak about their stolen childhoods, and what that meant for them growing up. And, of course, they recall the enormous impact that Anne’s story had upon them all.
“If Anne had survived, maybe her gaze would be similar to those of these women?” suggests Mirren, in a voiceover.
It is these five women who, alongside archivists and historians, offer us a new insight into this unfathomable period of history. And, in a bid to make the documentary even more appealing to modern viewers, producers have tasked actor Martina Gatti with guiding us through the various locations featured in Anne’s life.
As per the hashtag seen in the film’s title, Gatti talks to us about these places via the language of social media. Whether or not this digital diary is necessary or not, of course, is up to you. However, there’s no denying it hammers home the point that these atrocities weren’t committed by monsters: they were the actions of human beings. That this story, so far removed from anything we ourselves have experienced, happened to someone very much like us, and not all that long ago.
And it is through connecting these past tragedies with the present that the film finds itself able to properly address the racism and discrimination which still exists today.
#AnneFrank: Parallel Stories is available to stream on Netflix now.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.