The trouble with creating a film that banks on a dry sense of humor, subtle plot twists and low-key acting is that each element can be as much a problem as a blessing. And, they are a problem in “The Treasure.”
Director Corneliu Porumboiu uses such a light touch in making the Romanian dark comedy that the film comes across as bland, slow moving and poorly written.
“The Treasure,” this month’s Fresno Filmworks feature, tells the story of Costi (Toma Cuzin), a family man and self-proclaimed Robin Hood to his 6-year-old son. When a neighbor tries to borrow money and then offers a chance to search for hidden treasure on family land, Costi ends up going on a treasure hunt.
The film’s light humor works when Costi is trying to put together the funds needed for the quest. He ends up in a bizarre conversation with his boss, which leads to an odd confession. There’s also an oddly shifty man who has the metal detectors the pair need to find the treasure.
As soon as the pair begin their search, the movie becomes as boring as watching someone wave a metal detector over massive amounts of land. Porumboiu seems to be trying to make a point about the futility of life, the search for redemption and the ambiguity of persistence.
He tries, but he fails.
The action is minimal and dialogue sluggish, which doesn’t change once they believe they have found where the treasure is buried.
There is a slight attempt to add some political commentary, especially in regards to how the Romanian government treats found items. But Porumboiu treats that like an ex-girlfriend at the wedding of her former boyfriend: You can’t help notice, but in the end it doesn’t really matter.
Nothing about this movie shows a strong interest by the director. Scenes are staged as frugal as possible and the lighting is undefined.
Slice-of-life films can be compelling. But it’s the delivery that draws the audience. This film stays in a sort of cinematic limbo between heavenly or hellish.
Porumboiu needed to add more layers to create more textured characters. His passive approach leaves the characters so flat you could pass a metal detector over them and not get a beep. The setting is equally as blase, unless you find great joy looking at a hole in the ground.
The film has captured the interest of many, having won the Prix Un Certain Talent at the Cannes Film Festival. That group obviously saw the dry humor and slow pacing as charming instead of as a weakness.
The main theme of “The Treasure” is to take from the rich and give to the poor. The director needed to take bits from films with more compelling characters, settings and story to give to this poor production.
Cast: Toma Cuzin, Corneliu Cozmei, Adrian Purcarescu.
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
Opens: A Fresno Filmworks presentation at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 11. In Romanian with subtitles