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Home Culture Surviving ‘Girls’: after her rise and fall, Lena Dunham returns with a film about the Holocaust | Culture

Surviving ‘Girls’: after her rise and fall, Lena Dunham returns with a film about the Holocaust | Culture

by News Room
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It is not the first time that Lena Dunham (New York, 37 years old) travels to Poland. In her early twenties, the actress and director flew to the country of her ancestors with her friends from college. “We spent the trip drinking vodka, hanging out with boys and dancing in clubs,” she recalled this Saturday during a meeting in a Berlin hotel. She then did not want to know anything about her origins, Polish Jews on her mother’s side, “with a significant number of lives lost in the area” during World War II. Her mother and grandmother told her that she had not missed anything in Auschwitz: “It’s not a tourist site, what are you going to do there? In my family there was no interest in understanding or compromise, but rather in assimilating, in being Americans first and Jews second. I didn’t realize until we were a few kilometers away how scared she was.”

It refers to the day they filmed Treasure, presented out of competition at the Berlinale, outside the concentration camp. Directed by German Julia von Heinz, the film adapts a book by Lily Brett, a New York music journalist and daughter of Holocaust survivors, who traveled to post-communist Poland in 1991 with her father to understand where she came from. They found the family home in Lodz, bought the porcelain tableware and grandfather’s old coat for gold from those who occupied it, and got lost along desolate roads that took them to towns that “once were beautiful,” in a tragicomic journey. which, on the big screen, Dunham performs alongside a disastrous and endearing father played by Stephen Fry.

In this reconciliation with his origins, an antidote to the amnesia of the inhabitants of the New World, the character’s identity crisis is resolved. Also Dunham’s own? “I took it as a mission, as something important to leave to our children. I had the feeling, without knowing where she was coming from, that there was something I needed to explore. I think I came back quite changed. She allowed me to better understand the people I descend from. We believe that when something like this happens we will have incredible and great signs, when in reality everything can happen gradually and in an orderly manner. The area of ​​interest “It reflects very well how banal evil can be.”

The actress stars in and also produces the film—unfortunately, she does not direct or write it, which would have worked in favor of the result—a commitment to the material in which one can imagine a change in her relationship with her faith and her culture. . “When she was little, religion was something cultural, a kind of family obligation. When my grandmother Dorothy died in 2016, at age 96, I began studying with a rabbi, reading religious texts and also authors like Yehuda Amichai,” she says. “What I like about being Jewish is that it is not mandatory to have a relationship with God, but with the community around you. For me, being Jewish is about being someone you can trust, being a source of support, being able to recommend a good doctor or beautician, or being the person who comes forward with bagels in an emergency situation.” They call it being a menscha good person, although Dunham admits that sometimes he also acts as meshugana the allocated chica.

“For me, being Jewish is about being someone you trust, being the person who recommends a good doctor or shows up with bagels in an emergency. It is not mandatory to have a relationship with God”

Dunham never fully left, but this feels a lot like a comeback. It’s been seven years since she finished Girlsthe series that made her a television prodigy, the voice of a generation, the winner of several Golden Globes, the cover of Vogue, usual signature of The New Yorker and author of a book for which she received a $3.5 million advance. Also a permanent object of controversy and scrutiny on social networks, then in an embryonic phase: for her excessive nudity, for her non-normative body, for her supposed racism, for her unbridled narcissism, for anything that came out of her mouth.

Lena Dunham and Adam Driver, in an image from the series ‘Girls’.

When the series concluded, it chained several communication crises, which perhaps explains the presence of four publicists in the room where the interview takes place. She called a woman who had accused her co-writer of raping her a liar, so she was excluded in fact of MeToo after having been one of its main promoters, and was later accused of treating a black athlete in an offensive manner. She had to hire bodyguards when she received death threats (one of them, accompanied by a map of her house that indicated where her bedroom was). At the 2017 Met Gala, she collapsed and was admitted to a hospital. She had five surgeries to treat her endometriosis. She underwent a hysterectomy. She broke up with her partner, music producer Jack Antonoff. She was admitted to a detoxification clinic for her addiction to anxiolytics. And perhaps worst of all: her humor, a female version of that of her mentor Judd Apatow, typical of that breed of comedians who would rather lose a close friend than be left wanting to crack a hilarious joke, stopped have grace

Return to TV

Dunham has since directed two low-profile films (e.g. Birdyadaptation of her favorite book when she was a child), in addition to the series Campingcanceled by HBO after a single season, and some episodes of Industry, about the young pups of the City of London. If compared to the career of Adam Driver, an actor whom she turned into a star thanks to Girls, seems somewhat disappointing. “I was very young. I’m going to be 38 and I was 23 when I wrote the pilot of a series that defined my entire twenties. We were not number one in viewers, but it is true that it generated a lot of conversation. But, of course, that can’t always be the case… So there were only a couple of series a week. Now there are about 800 a year,” he relativizes today.

His parents, the painter Carroll Dunham and the photographer Laurie Simmons, already warned him: “If you want to work in this, you are going to go up and down. You have to do it for the work itself, for the experience of the work itself, and never for the response to your work.” This is how he wants to work from now on. “My secret motivation is not success or how others will perceive me or winning a Golden Globe. I literally don’t know where my Golden Globes are.” His next projects will be a film inspired by Polly Pocket for Mattel, in the wake of the super-success of Barbie, and a new comedy for Netflix that is currently filming in London. “I don’t expect a response on the scale of Girlsbut it has reminded me how much I like doing television.”

“When ‘Girls’ started, people had more empathy for a mobster like Tony Soprano than for those girls who had inappropriate sexual encounters. That it continues to resonate today seems very special to me.”

Lately, viewers of all ages are rewatching Girls. And, this time, they feel a sympathy for their characters that they did not show then: they no longer see in Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna four insufferable and self-centered girls, but perhaps people who look like them. For some time now, social networks have been filled with gifs, memes and videos of his best scenes. “I don’t have an explanation, but I thank the TikTok algorithm,” Dunham responds. “When the series started, people had more empathy for a mobster like Tony Soprano than for those girls who had inappropriate sexual encounters. That the series continues to resonate, especially among younger viewers, seems very special to me.” Would you say you were ahead of your time? “It’s inelegant to say that about yourself,” she smiles. “What I will say is that our culture now has another understanding of what it means to not be a white, cisgender, straight man.”

Dunham has not seen again Girlsbut from time to time someone sends him a supercut with a Taylor Swift or Phoebe Bridgers song playing in the background, and admits to checking it out. “And all of a sudden I’m like, ‘You know what? It was fun’. I like that, in this new world, the things you do as an artist, even when they have a complicated response at first, end up finding an audience that needed them and that manages to resurrect them,” she admits. “Even if, sometimes, all that takes a little time.”

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