Where’s Anne Frank! : the new success of Ari Folman [critique]

The man of Waltz with Bachir and the Congress, brings out Anne Frank and her diary from the museum to free her Memory.

The intuition is that a story cannot forever be told in one and the same way. And History, the big one, either, because nothing is fixed, neither the time, nor the context in which the stories are transmitted. This observation, Ari Folman carried it on himself, in the breathtaking Waltz with Bachir in 2008, deconstruction / reconstruction of his experience as a soldier during the Lebanon war in the early 1980s and of what remained of it twenty-five years later, for him, his country (Israel) and the world. Fragments, reminiscences, vague memories, but no Memory with a great Mr. Twenty-five, it didn’t seem like much, but it was an abyss. It was above all in-extremis before the repressed had swallowed everything up.

Memory / memory, History / history, Public / public… Eighty years after the deportation of his title character and his family, Where’s Anne Frank! is a matter of upper and lower case letters, and therefore of perspectives. The film is based on a brilliant premise: Kitty, the “imaginary friend” Anne Frank addresses in her famous diary, comes to life. She is embodied in contemporary Amsterdam in the guise of a twirling heroine, with a lock in front of her eyes, charming freckles and the supernatural power of animation to leap over walls and escape those who then chase her. that she tries to find the 13-year-old girl who invoked her for the first time in 1942. Find her, or at least her spirit, her reason for being, her lesson, her permanence. The psychoanalytic principle of Waltz with Bachir, her process of Russian doll mental inquiry and gradual lifting of the veils was already reproduced in part in The Congress (2013). “Dear Kitty” is the dynamic representation here.

Custodian of what was playing out in the Frank family’s apartment, and beyond in Amsterdam and the whole of Europe in the 1940s, the redhead re-imagined by Folman is a fabulous witness character (in the sense of a landmark), the ‘equivalent of a Captain America out of the ice which measures the course of time and the extent of the damage by its offset. Where is she, Anne Frank? At the same time everywhere, on every street corner, and nowhere, like a trace that fades or a museum piece that rings hollow. Somewhere between an inconsistent distraction (forgetting) and historical amnesia (forgetting). A blind spot, a trompe-l’oeil, an empty shell. Something has to be done, so Folman does what he can do best: a cartoon.

When the film was shown in Cannes last July, some viewers (and critics) were harsh with the parallels the film allows itself – and encourages – between the deportation of Jews in the 20th century and wandering. migrants in the 21st century. It must be said that all the power of Folman’s project lies precisely here: by leaving the Newspaper, Kitty especially escapes the museum, this dead place in front of which one queues and looks sad, before passing by the souvenir shop (with a very small s) then going for a walk on cute little canals, surrounded by shops of interior decoration. In this museum, in this visit, there are only tourists, tourism, and everything gradually loses its meaning. We believe we are getting closer to things, we move away inexorably.

By his device, Folman does not try to make the public of today, the children of this century, understand that the migrant crisis is the reproduction of the pivotal drama of the previous one. Rather, he tries to recall that what they are told about the twentieth century is not a simple page of a history book to turn, nor a guided tour without a soul but a tangible reality, in the same way as that, miserable, to side which they spend day after day on their way to school. It is not the past that rubs off on the present, but the present that should teach us about the past. This is where Anne Frank is, where she has always been, what her role has always been: to give flesh, life, fear, questioning, childhood, to a historical drama in danger of fossilization. A conceptual and philosophical challenge which the film faces in turn. Somewhere in this composite work where eras, graphic inspirations and visual techniques crash against each other, nestle the vibrant trace of the gesture of this Jewish teenager, her living memory, her spark, her revived flame.

By Ari Folman. With the voices of : Emily Carey, Ruby Stokes, Sebastian Croft. Duration: 1h39. Release December 8, 2021

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