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‘Treasure’ review: Dir. Julia von Heinz [Berlinale]

Stephen Fry (Edak) and Lena Dunham (Ruth) led the cast of this drama set in 1991 about a father and daughter who return to Poland for the first time since Edak fled the country some forty years previous.

Photo credit – © Anne Wilk, supplied by Berlinale Press

The latest in a line of recent productions with the Holocaust as a recurring subject – see Jonathan Glazer’s Cannes debuting The Zone of Interest and this year’s Sundance road movie from Jesse Eisenberg, A Real Pain – this drama, based upon true events, shares more with the latter as a father and daughter embark on a journey into the past in early ’90s Poland. The work is loosely based on the novel ’Too Many Men’ by Lily Brett.

Stephen Fry is Edak, a survivor of the Holocaust, specifically the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where he was sent during the war, along with his close family and beloved late wife, who we learn has recently passed. Just she and Edak survived the camp and shortly after the end of the war, relocated to New York leaving Poland behind. We meet their daughter, Ruth (Dunham), at Warsaw airport where she awaits the arrival of her father to begin their trip across a region of the country taking in the place Edak grew up, their former home, and lastly the Auschwitz camp.

Fry, complete with an Eastern European accent, and Dunham with one which is distinctly American, have a wonderful dynamic, and are both superb even though they reportedly only met briefly before shooting. It’s a joy to watch them in some scenes, Fry’s comedic style coming through the character of Edak, a likeable chap who seemingly gets on with everyone he meets. Edak befriends all and sundry, including a local taxi driver named Stefan (Zbigniew Zamachowski) who agrees to drive them for the duration of their trip after a chance meeting in a car park. Edak refuses to travel by train – the toilets are no good on Polish transport – much to the annoyance of Ruth who has planned their itinerary down to the minute detail. She’s wound tight, seemingly irritated by her father’s every move, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments like Edak openly talking to his daughter about her sex life since parting ways with her husband, whom he is still in contact with, even keeping a photograph of him in his wallet.

There are great scenes, one with Edak taking to the stage to sing karaoke, specifically Opus’ 1984 banger ‘Live is Life‘, much to the horror/delight of his daughter, and then another where Dunham’s Ruth heads back to the family home to reclaim some of the family’s possessions with a local hotel worker, and ultimately paying the price for them.

The film is charming and it is full of tender moments, especially towards the end. While not making as much of an impact as I had expected it to towards the end, and overall a little ‘too on the nose’ in terms of its emotional button pushing, it had left a lasting impression on me post-screening. I found it very endearing.

Treasure was reviewed at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival.


Paul Heath



While there might be a little too much comedic sprinkling for this to land as big an emotional punch, there is lots to take away from this involving drama including superb performances from its two leads.



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