‘Treasure’ memories of things past

A brilliant two-fer packed with both humor and frail family emotion on constant display Treasure directed by Julia von Heinz stars Stephen Fry and Lena Dunham.

Treasure is set in 1990 although the casual viewer may be unsure of the time frame because after all an excursion through Europe can be a timeless journey through the past.

A daughter, herself a divorcee and a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and her recently widowed father meet in Poland with plans to travel across the country as a kind of bonding experience. Fry simply gives a stunning performance as Edek who had grown up in Poland during WWII.

Both live in America and carry baggage that recalls that existence. Yet Edek a Holocaust survivor cannot escape his childhood trauma. Part of the magic of Treasure is how Edek often in a comically pointed way tries to blot out his memories, to no avail.

The performances are raw and meant to directly ply into people’s hearts.

Dunham as Ruth is alternately stand-offish and yet encouraging of her father’s eccentricities. Fry gives a tour de force portrayal even as he counters every move his daughter makes. When she has spent money on advance train tickets he rejects that means of travel (“The bathrooms are awful.”) and hires a Mercedes taxi.

“I don’t like Germans but I like their cars.”

Polish actor Zbigniew Zamachowski, who played the male lead in Kieslowski’s White also delivers in his minor but key role as the taxi driver.

At one point they spend the day at Auschwitz-Birkenau. “It’s not a museum, it’s a deathcamp,” Ruth repeats like a mantra to anyone who’ll listen.

Edek’s mannerisms seem to be trying to get his daughter to loosen up what he sees as defense mechanisms that prevent her from enjoying life. Ruth by contrast projects a calm exterior that hides a boiling temperament. This is best illustrated in one scene where she’s in an elevator full of people laughing. Ruth finally yells at them to shut up, not because they are laughing at her but simply because they seem to be enjoying life.

Ruth has her own quirks, like self-tattooing concentration style numbers on her leg in her silent moments late at night in her respective hotel room.

Treasure will get stuck in your head. For me it’s only a matter of time before I see it again.

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