THE TREASURE, satire, not rated, in Romanian with subtitles, The Screen, 3 Chiles
The Treasure is festival material (Cannes gave it the Prix un Certain Talent). It’s a wry, gentle Romanian satire that takes a simple story and spins it out over an hour and a half, sometimes with a barely discernible pulse. But there’s enough life to keep a patient audience engaged, and there are some intriguing twists at the end to send that audience home with something to talk about.
Costi (played by Toma Cuzin, an actor with the face of a sensitive prize fighter) is a quiet man with an inner sense of adventure. He lives in a spare Bucharest apartment with his wife and six-year-old son Alin (played by the actor’s wife and son, Cristina and Nicodim Toma). He works at a drab desk in a lifeless office, but in his Walter Mitty soul he’s Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. One evening, as he is reading to Alin from a Robin Hood storybook, his neighbor Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu) stops by, hoping to borrow some money. Costi is hard up himself and turns him down. But Adrian returns later with a proposition.
There is a legend, Adrian tells Costi, that his grandfather buried some treasure in the backyard of his house in a country village years ago, when the communists came into power. He proposes they go in together on a search for the treasure. To do that they’ll need a metal detector. If Costi will front the money for the detector (and someone who knows how to use it), Adrian will split their findings with him. There’s something a little shifty about Adrian, but the romantic in Costi’s soul can’t resist the lure of buried treasure. He goes AWOL from work to look into the hiring of the metal detector and makes a deal with an employee (Corneliu Cozmei) of the company to bootleg his services and equipment on a Saturday at a cut rate when the boss isn’t looking.
The three men set off for the grandfather’s village to hunt and dig for the treasure. And things happen. Buried along the way are nuggets of Romanian history and little life lessons, such as the one Costi teaches Alin about dealing with a schoolyard bully and the one he himself learns when he tries to tell the truth to his boss.
The Treasure started out as a documentary project for its director, Corneliu Porumboiu ( 12:08 East of Bucharest) and his friend Purcarescu, a fellow director, about the latter’s financial problems in trying to finish a film. That didn’t work out, but Purcarescu mentioned the rumor of his grandfather’s buried treasure, and a story began to take shape. It takes a lot of digging, but there’s something valuable to be found. — Jonathan Richards
Thinking outside the box: Toma Cuzin and Adrian Purcarescu