Kumiko, the Treasure HunterSundance London 2014
A sense of childlike excitement is born when terms such as “treasure hunter” are branded in cinema, as images of fairy tales and lost lands are instantly conjured up. This sense of adventure is directly found from the first scene in this picture as we are shown our lead Kumiko discovering a mysterious video tape in a bizarre setting.
The fantasy element of the opening scene is sucked out of the picture early on and replaced with a relentlessly grey silent landscape as we learn that Kumiko is a painfully shy outcasted drone of society with little hope in her life. The turgid landscape is brilliantly oxymoronic from the initial tone as the audience is trapped in Kumiko’s shell of a life with little relief found anywhere. The scenes of social interaction are amazingly crafted as a distinctive sense of impending doom, usually saved for horror films, are injected into the scenes making the audience live the awkwardness.
The VHS found by Kumiko is an old copy of the American film Fargo and this becomes a source of escapism for her as she becomes obsessed with one particular scene, leading her to travel across the world to investigate it further. The film is essentially split into two acts: the first part encapsulates the sense of miserable claustrophobia, while the second half represents more of an expanded journey, where the film starts to unfortunately fall flat.
Despite the sense of intrigue and dark fascination in the opening of the film being lost in the latter part, there are still moments of interest and even pockets of humour. Visually the cinematography is stunning throughout – vivid landscapes are a common sight as Kumiko strolls through breathtakingly beautiful lands.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a film that requires its audience to bury themselves in the tone of Kumiko’s life and believe in the story wholeheartedly. While some elements work better than others, the sense of isolation and surreal hope is maintained throughout, making it an enjoyably dark and memorable journey.
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