Disaster — or at least serious disappointment — lurks around every plot turn in “The Treasure.” People make risky choices when times are tough.
And yet this leisurely paced Romanian film is full of amusing twists. Its slow burn has a payoff that’s well worth the trip.
Our central character is Costi (Toma Cuzin), a young dad with a modest existence and a tight budget. When a neighbor, Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu), shows up at his door one night with a bizarre story, Costi ought to politely turn the man away.
But he listens.
Adrian spins a tale about a box full of valuables buried in his family’s yard, a few hours’ drive away. He’s not sure what’s in the box — his grandfather buried it during the Communist era — but he’s sure something valuable waits there.
All he needs is an expert with a metal detector to join the search. If Costi would put up the money to hire the expert, Adrian will split the treasure 50-50.
You know — if they find anything.
Costi can’t afford this. Our common sense tells us this is an extremely dubious proposition, if not an outright scam.
So quite a bit of suspense follows, as Costi and Adrian join forces with a sketchy guy with a metal detector to tear up a back yard.
We watch the dealings with the expert, the painstaking process of wandering around a yard with an insanely beeping detector, and the bureaucratic hoops that modern-day prospectors must jump through.
There’s something quietly funny about all this, especially the way director COrneliu Porumboiu allows the action to play out in the long takes that are characteristic of the new Romanian cinema. The exasperation (especially a political argument that breaks out while the men are digging) becomes all too real.
Porumboiu used a similar technique in “Police, Adjective” and “12:08 East of Bucharest,” but the touch here is lighter. As things play out in real time, you have a chance to see how absurd the reasons for the argument are.
This story line could easily be adapted for Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, although that movie would move faster and rely on more bodily-function jokes.
It leads to an unexpected ending that, in retrospect, is just right. These recent Romanian films have sometimes been gloomy about both past and future, but “The Treasure” sprinkles a little sugar in the medicine.
“The Treasure” (3 stars)
An amusing Romanian film that plays out in the long, slow scenes typical of director Corneliu Porumboiu. Two men are convinced that buried treasure awaits in a back yard, and they prepare to dig it up, despite the dubious likelihood of success. In Romanian, with English subtitles.
Rating: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter
Showing: Grand Illusion theater