David Simon’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s eponymous novel, The Plot Against America (HBO Spain) develops a plot of political-fiction in the United States in the early 1940s. There, supported by his populist discourse (“The war or me”), the exaviador and national hero Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the polls, thus opening the doors of the White House to the anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideals of a leader close to Third Reich. But The conspiracy against America does not take place in Washington or in any other center of power but in the home of the Levin, a Newark Jewish family that works as a mirror of Roth himself, who wrote his novel, published in 2004, in the first person. , when its protagonist was a Jewish boy who did not reach the age of ten.
David Simon has made no secret that The conspiracy against America has clear echoes for him with the present and with the messianic style of Donald Trump, a president always ready to pay xenophobia, either against immigrants who come from the South or now with ” Chinese virus. ” Roth, who died in 2018, did not have Trump as a reference to write his dystopia, something that according to Simon makes even more powerful these fictional memories of the author of American Pastoral or Portnoy’s Lament in which little Philip terrified discovers how his family ends on the target of a country strewn with anti-Semites.
Divided into six chapters, the new HBO series was a project that Roth learned about and agreed with Simon himself, who promised not to use the Roth surname in fiction for the leading family. With a setting that brightens (sometimes excessively) the nostalgic memorabilia of the 1940s and the customs of the American Jewish community at the time, The Plot against America is especially bold when it occurs within the four walls of the Levin family. Radio, a crucial element in the dramatic development of the series, functions as a powerful omnipresent character whose waves draw the viewer to the political landscape of the country. The same happens with the cinema, where the news is projected every day and where the father, Herman, an insurance salesman who defends the new deal and who plays the actor Morgan Spector with claw, comes daily. Like the Levin family, we listen to and see the bulletins through which little by little the wave of friction appears, awakening them first and frightening and cornering them later. Herman, the father, is always attached to the radio.
He and his wife, played by Zoe Kazan (yes, Elia Kazan’s granddaughter), are the basis of that family tension on which Simon’s adaptation stands. The best of the series occurs inside a home where everything that the woman is silent reveals everything that her husband screams. Kazan’s character, that not-so-passive mother Levin, is burdened with the dilemmas of her Jewish tradition.
The husband-wife pulse (two perfectly measured voices) joins the one between the two sisters played by Zoe Kazan and Winona Ryder, who in the second chapter of the series meets Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf (John Turturro), adviser to the circle Lindbergh who does not see in the heroic pilot a danger to his people and who somehow represents that no man’s land that Claude Lanzmann reflected so well in his portrait of Benjamin Murmelstein in The Last of the Unjust. Kazan and Ryder are medullar because each of them absorbs opposing visions to lower them to the ground without sermons or bravado.
But The conspiracy against America is a series that mixes the point of view of adults with that of a child (little Philip), a perspective that takes off completely in the final chapters, which concentrates all the tension that is being forged in the rest of the miniseries. In front of Philip’s innocent gaze is that of his older brother, a teenager with artistic aspirations and a fan of Lindbergh, and especially that of Sheldon, that fragile-looking neighbor who represents something that a screenwriter of the stature of Simon never forgets: the victims.