Glasgow Film Festival reviews: Nitram | Where is Anne Frank

Justin Kurzel’s new film, Nitram, explores the worst mass shooting in Australian history, while Ari Folman’s latest suggests we have failed to learn the lessons of the Anne Frank story. Reviews by Alistair Harkness

Caleb Landry Jones in Nitram
Caleb Landry Jones in Nitram

Nitram *****

Where is Anne Frank ****

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Following Snowtown and True History of the Kelly Gang, Justin Kurzel’s latest film Nitram sees him once again explore the violence lurking at the heart of his native Australia by looking at the worst mass shooting in its history: the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania. Stripped of any sensationalism, the film – which received its GFF premiere over the weekend – adheres to new reporting standards by never naming the lone gunman responsible (he’s only referred to by his titular nickname), but Kurzel and star Caleb Landry Jones do provide a compulsively queasy portrait of his downward spiral in the run-up to the atrocity.

Its power comes from how horribly ordinary everything is as Nitram’s exhausted parents (Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia) do their best to cope with their son’s inadequately treated mental health issues while Nitram (Jones) bumbles around town like an overgrown kid, his decline exacerbated as he moves in with an eccentric heiress (Essie Davis) living in her own Grey Gardens-style bubble. It offers no easy answers, just a chilling reminder of how easily society forgets its own destructive impulses.

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That was also a theme in another of the festival’s weekend premieres: Where is Anne Frank? – an intriguing animated retelling of the Anne Frank story from Waltz with Bashir director Ari Folman. Pitched at YA audiences, it’s built around a fantastical conceit in which Kitty, the imaginary friend Anne wrote to, comes to life and steals the diary, wandering around modern day Amsterdam oblivious to Anne’s fate.

What she finds is a city where refugees are being denied sanctuary yet Anne is deified, something Folman uses to make blunt but effective points about the lessons of her young life being forgotten by an adult world too concerned with her value as a tourist attraction.

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