The Treasure

The Treasure

I was prepared, in my own cynical way, for a wild goose chase when I sat down to view The Treasure from acclaimed director Corneliu Porumboiu. Blame my experience of watching many cynical Romanian new wave titles for this, but the film played with my expectations and astonished me in many unexpected ways.

The story follows Costi, a quite family man who befriends his neighbour and agrees to help him on a seemingly mad quest to find what is purported to being a long lost treasure buried at the neighbour’s ancestral family home. In order to succeed, they must hire the services of a metal detector and together, the three huddle up at the historic site for a weekend of hunting, arguing and discovery. As simple as it sounds, and because the Romanians have now mastered the art of ironic black humour, a criticism (almost resentment) of corrupt and abusive authority and a deadpan observational feel to the minimalistic style of the film, Treasure is richly rewarding.

Porumboiu’s austere direction ensures that the facts of the situation are clearly and distinctly laid bare for us. The dialogues are penetrating of the situation. When Costi visits a company that provides metal detectors he is asked questions about the site to be explored – it’s precise location, it’s approximate area etc. and we both chuckle and nod in agreement that in real-life this is how an actual treasure hunt would commence – with overlooked facts. They are also informed about the consequences of not disclosing to the Police any treasures that are found. This is ugly government bureaucracy rearing its head and while all of this is mockingly funny, it is also meant as scathing criticism of modern, post-Communist Romania.

That Costi let’s himself not only be involved in all of this, even though he comes across as being the most level-headed person we meet, but is willing to go farthest when the others are ready to quit masks a neediness that presents itself in the last act. Because the bleak films from the country in this era have prepared us for the worst – involvement with red tape, corruption, greed etc. Treasure toys with us and delivers a surprisingly humane and positive ending – but not without making us ask why and leaving us to figure out what all of it meant.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and