Cannes 2015: ‘The Treasure’ review


Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu won the Un Certain Regard prize back in 2009 with his black comedy Police, Adjective. This year he entered the competition and picked up the Un Certain Talent prize with The Treasure (2015), a similarly wryly comic fable set in modern day Bucharest. Mild-mannered civil servant Costi (Cuzin Toma) is an unambitious, easygoing type, happy in his apartment with his wife (Cristina Toma) and son (Nicodim Toma) to whom he delights in reading stories, especially Robin Hood. One evening the storytelling session is interrupted by a neighbour, Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu), who is in need of borrowing money.

Costi is unable to help him his friend and it soon becomes clear as Adrian reveals his precarious financial position that any money loaned will probably be money lost. Adrian returns later however with a plan. He needs the money to pay for a metal detector because he suspects that an elderly relative has buried some money in the grounds of his brother’s house. The proposal is made that if Costi can front the money for the machinery then Adrian will cut him in on the treasure found. Costi is intrigued enough to bunk off work and contact a metal detecting firm. The price is high but an employee Toma (Corneliu Cozemi) offers to undercut his own company and work on the weekend with borrowed equipment. The offer is accepted and Adrian, Costi and Toma convene in the garden of the house and set about the meticulous search for the treasure.

A dry, deadpan humour is apparent as the three men grow impatient with each other, plodding around the garden in search of treasure the existence of which hangs on the flimsiest of suppositions. They bicker about the equipment, and Adrian in particular reveals himself to be a grumpy feckless individual whose problems are more than likely firmly of his own making. The obstinate persistence of the men in their search is also demanded of the audience as Porumboiu takes his own sweet time in stretching the slightest of stories to a full eighty minutes. Nothing is left out, from the details of two metal detectors that detect in a slightly different way to an off-the-wall subplot which sees Costi accused/congratulated on having an affair with a colleague as a result of his truancy in going to find the metal detector. Despite the somnambulant pacing, Porumboiu closes the film with a third act which is nicely unpredictable and surprisingly heart warming. Although not quite the bounty of its title, The Treasure rewards the patient viewer with a quietly enchanting drama.

The 68th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 13-24 May 2015. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.

John Bleasdale | @drjonty