Although it appeared almost fifteen years after the end of World War II, The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the first post-war films to confront the Holocaust on such human terms. The Frank family is an "every family," made to bear testimony for all the victims of the Nazi genocide. It is a weight that the film bears with dignity, although the filmmaker's self-consciousness occasionally causes the pace to drag. Shooting in panoramic Cinemascope, Oscar-winning cinematographer William C. Mellor and director George Stevens capture the situation's overwhelming claustrophobia, as the two families are forced to cohabit in cave-like conditions, remain quiet all day, and block up the windows at night; the claustrophobia gradually creates a palpable sense of audience dread. Shelley Winters's near-hysterical performance garnered her an Oscar, but she sometimes seems to be in a different movie from her more controlled co-stars. Millie Perkins was a little old (21) for the title role, but she effectively conveys Anne's painful adolescent confusion. The strength of both families in the face of such frightening conditions provides the film with a moral center and tragic power that overcome its minor weaknesses.
by Dan Jardine review