Disney has acquired the rights to film a new version of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Variety announced yesterday. The film will be written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet. Variety suggests that Mamet will bring his "original take on the material that could re-frame the story as a young girl’s rite of passage."
Mamet will be working, however, from the 1955 theatrical version of the diary adapted by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich. That script was also worked into a film in 1959. (That film was not a commercial success, although it was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three.)
No matter what Mamet does with the film, it is sure to be controversial. "The Diary of Anne Frank" is so emotionally evocative a work and the reality from which it is drawn is so horrific that no portrayal is ever likely to fully do it justice. There will always be readers who will feel that nothing can substitute for the direct power and artlessness of the words of the young girl forced into hiding – and ultimately to death – by the Nazis.
But it will certainly be intriguing to see how the clever, acerbic, and sometimes arcane Mamet (of "Speed the Plow," "American Buffalo," and "Glengarry Glen Ross" fame) approaches the material. In the meantime, for those who can't wait, I recommend the Japanese anime version (I'm not kidding – this is very moving and you don't need to understand Japanese to find it so) or, even better, the book.