Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit viff.org and follow VIFF on Twitter at @viffest.
Porumboiu’s The Treasure is an effective deadpan comedy with dry, satirical content and a resigned tone despite guffaw-worthy exchanges. It is made almost entirely of medium to long two and three shots, with little cinematic flourishes. But this conventional cinematic rhetoric is not in any way a hindrance to the film’s emotive power; instead, the film’s resigned nature serves the understated script and subtext by providing thematic depth in its simple design.
While there are few laugh-out-loud moments, The Treasure is certainly one of the funniest films of the year, with much absurdist humour surmounting from its seemingly farfetch’d script and characters. In a desperate measure to save himself from debt, Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu), enlists the help of his neighbor, Costi (Toma Cuzin), to search for the presumed buried treasure of his great grandparents. His certainty of this treasure is palpable despite his complete lack of knowledge of its whereabouts and history and his previous failed attempts to discover it. His conviction, however, is sincere, and Costi skeptically agrees to hire a metal detector and operator to search for this hidden treasure.
As the film wanes on, subtly humorous dialogue expresses just how ridiculous their attempts are. From the inaccuracy of metal detectors to unrealized expectations, Adrian and Costi’s personal characteristics and flaws are brought to light. The script is strange, but even stranger are the characters’ motivations. Costi, a father who enjoys reading Robin Hood to his son, thinks of himself as a modern day hero. At the least, he wishes to discover treasure for the sake of his son’s innocence and imagination. Adrian, on the other hand, has a delusional sense of self-worth and an arrogant attitude which does little to serve his financial conflict.
When they find a buried treasure, it is not what they expected. Rather than pre-communist goods, they find shares of Mercedes, likely the treasure of a capitalist businessman in the post-communist era, when the house was transformed into a bar. Rather than jewels, which have physical worth and grandeur, they find slips of paper. This paper, ironically, is worth much more than jewels, and Costi takes just a small part of his shares to buy a number of jewels from a jewelry shop to fill the treasure chest and share the goods with his son and son’s friend. There is a great sense of community in this action, which follows the powerful, satirical scene of Costi shopping for treasure. The seemingly banal discovery of Mercedes shares is then overshadowed by a heartfelt use of the shares in purchasing jewelry to be shared amongst a group of children more likely to appreciate the existence of treasure. In a novel final shot which uses a crane to oversee the children in the playground, Porumboiu makes a clear though nuanced jab at capitalism while silently celebrating communist ideals.
While there are few laugh-out-loud moments, The Treasure is certainly one of the funniest films of the year, with much absurdist humour surmounting from its seemingly farfetch’d script and characters.