THE TREASURE Review
Director: Corneliu Proumbouiu
In a cinematic climate populated mostly by cynicism and socio-political dialogue, THE TREASURE is a welcome change to the traditions of Romanian cinema. Deceptively simple, THE TREASURE willfully explores the terrains of naivete in order to capitalize on the audience’s belief that director Corneliu Porumboiu’s latest is yet another in a slew of films that aim to chastise modern Romanian culture. Using each sequential break as a means to subvert what will happen next through its brilliant use of deadpan humor and perfect understanding of the Romanian people, THE TREASURE is delightfully funny and refreshingly optimistic.
Based off of an early draft of NATIONAL TREASURE
In an attempt to locate a treasure buried during Romania’s communist rule, two neighbors front their meager personal savings in order to rent a metal detector. Porumbouiu begins his narrative with a slow burn, only to ease his viewer into the intentional lull that captures the hopelessness of their search. Playing with whimsically slow long-takes that pan left and right as the metal detector travels through the garden, the viewer learns almost immediately that this tool will cause more auditory distress than provide actual guidance. Porumbouiu excels comically here, providing a foundation that diabolically tests the audience’s patience, leaving the theatre yelling at the characters to stop their ridiculous search for buried treasure.
Kickstarter has failed to take hold in Romania
The beauty of Porumbouiu’s story, however, comes to light with the conclusion of his second act. When all is said and done, THE TREASURE forces its audience to swallow their pride and accept the fact that for once these empathetic, but frustratingly immature protagonists might actually have been onto something all along. THE TREASURE doesn’t give up so quickly, well aware that its audience is still going to anticipate a series of cosmically poor decisions on part of the leads. But when everything seems to go to plan, the film subverts the trademarks set by the nihilism of eastern European cinema in order to provide a story so reassuring that it really only works within the confines of this cultural microcosm.
THE TREASURE is delightful filmmaking and is universally appealing in its comedy, although the simplicity of its narrative might leave some asking for more. Gorgeous lighting techniques and simple but brilliant visual gags make for a hilarious farce, but in the end it leaves one wondering why Porumbouiu’s 2015 release is a film, and not a stage play. As the film concludes, one can see that even Porumbouiu can’t help but insert a handful of nuggets of societal commentary into his film, using children as a metaphor for the Romanian people and the high probability that nothing good can last forever. Viewers accustomed to films from this region will find a lot to love here, but much of Porumbouiu’s subtle quirks will play out to its detriment for viewers who will undeniably expect more from the film.