Magazine article The Spectator

Quality Treat

Magazine article The Spectator

Quality Treat

Article excerpt

There are still some things that the BBC does incredibly well, and The Diary of Anne Frank (BBC1, Monday to Friday) was one. It's the licence fee that allows the corporation to take these risks, and next time the Murdoch press whinges about it, you might contemplate the limitless dross we would have to suffer if it went. (By the way, taking the Times and the Sunday Times for a year costs nearly three times as much as the licence fee. I wonder which most people would think better value? ) If Anne Frank had lived, she would have been 80 this year. Over the decades the story has become sanitised in the popular imagination. Delightful, heroic, saintly family living together in appalling circumstances, in the end betrayed by someone unknown.

True as far as it went, but Deborah Moggach created a richer narrative by going back to the original diary (Otto Frank, Anne's father, and the only survivor from the attic, censored the first edition, taking out references to her own sexuality and her bad relationship with her mother). What we got was a more affecting tale, of a teenager with the usual resentments and tantrums, forced to live in a claustrophobic confinement, trying to rebel against people who were never more than a few feet away. Anne was petulant about the things all girls of that age qare cross about - their parents and siblings, but smaller grievances too, like not being let into the bathroom. So we got the toilet timetable of Albert Dussel, a fellow prisoner, played with wonderful sensitivity by Nicholas Farrell, simultaneously sympathetic and deeply annoying.

The 150 minutes were filled with telling moments: the family's faces when someone describes a wedding, narrated entirely in terms of the food. The joy when they get a real cake. The panic when burglars break into the offices below; they assume it must be the police. The terror when one of the women has a tooth out, and cannot stop screaming. The radiant hope with which they hear the news about D-Day.

I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that the story has an unhappy ending. But this was handled deftly too: the police were cold but not cruel, businesslike really. The last we see is the family being led downstairs as on-screen captions describe their fate. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.