Cannes: The Treasure review

THE TREASUREFrom the very beginning of The Treasure, writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu is laying a trail of breadcrumbs for the audience, leading them directly to his final conclusion. The film opens, for instance, with office worker Costi (Toma Cuzin) reading Robin Hood to his son, a not-so subtle hint regarding Porumboiu’s viewpoint on wealth in the current economic climate.

Before long, Costi is approached by his neighbour, Adrian (Adrian Puracarescu), who is looking to borrow some money. Times are tough and Adrian is struggling to pay his rent. But this isn’t exactly what he wants the money for: Adrian actually wants the loan so he might hire a metal detectorist to help him try and find a treasure that his grandfather may, or may, not have buried in the family back garden.

Costi gets the necessary money together and hires a dectorist who is willing to come with them for the weekend but not necessarily report what they find. What follows makes up the bulk of the film’s narrative, as the three men scan the garden and dig. Then scan and dig. And then dig some more, all the while excavating not just the garden but also Romania’s past.

The dig scenes are slow and meandering, for sure, but they are also incredibly amusing, thanks to Porumboiu’s exceptionally funny timing and adept handling of deadpan comedy. Squabbles between the detectorist and Adrian start off as mildly humorous but ramp towards hilarity as tensions between the characters continue to fray. And Porumboiu also manages to get more comedy out of the sound of a metal detector than I had ever have thought possible.

Follow the breadcrumbs through the veils of dry humour, however, and the story is revealed to be a fascinating investigation into post-communist Romania. While I don’t want ruin the wonderful ending, I will say that Porumboiu makes an interesting case for capitalism not being quite so bad after all, just as long as everyone is nice about it.

The same pay-off also pleads for the more optimistic ideals of communism to not be forgotten as everybody rushes forwards. But above all else, the ending of The Treasure is the delightful resolution to a charming story that never once slips into sentimentality despite its heart-coddling warmth.