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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reader's Diary #1937- Anne Frank, adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky: Anne Frank's Diary

I'm a fan of, and highly respect, comics and graphic novels, so the idea that a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank's Diary might be disrespectful didn't occur to me. Fortunately it did to Ari Folman, meaning he took the utmost care with his process, explaining his reservations and final decisions in a note at the end. Some passages, for the sake of space, would have to be cut. And anyone who's read the original knows how strong and distinct Anne's personality was; was it possible to preserve that with visuals replacing many of the words? I would dare say that Folman and Polonsky pulled off what surely was a very intimidating task with skill and grace. Now, I admit that I haven't read the original since I was a teenager, so I can't really say if I felt anything was lost, but the book was also authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation, whom I'd like to think would not have done so unless it was of utmost quality.

Anne's personality definitely shines here. In some ways she's a typical teenager going through puberty with all the curiosity and up and down emotions that entails. Of course, even as long ago as I read the text-only version, I still recalled that Anne was anything but typical. She was tremendously open and honest (I realize it was a personal diary, but even then many of us are afraid of revealing too much), insightful, and tremendously self-aware. Spending the day closed off from the world, not even able to talk to the few people beside her, no doubt played some part in this, but one suspects that Anne would have been a gifted writer even had she never been forced to endure what she did.

Polonsky's art just avoiding getting in the way of Anne's story would have been an achievement of sorts, but ultimately would have rendered a graphic novel adaptation pointless. Thankfully, the art (as meant to do in graphic novels) adds and enhances. It's dark and mesmerizing at times, but at others captures Anne's wild imagination and sense of humour. I especially enjoyed a page where she writes of her love of film stars. Polonsky presents six portraits of Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine, Carole Lombard, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Marlene Dietrich. These could have sufficed just as they were, but he goes above and beyond by imposing Anne's features over them as no doubt many teenagers would be wont to fantasize.

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