The relatively unknown David Zellner director's new film out in London this weekend takes viewers on an emotional journey through both the psychological and the physical, in this heart-wrenching tale of one woman's loneliness and quest to find significance.
Skeptics need not be put off by the title – Kumiko The Treasure Hunter couldn't be further from all things Manga, or the abundant Marvel-inspired films that are out this year.
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, plot
The film stars Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (best known for her role in Alejandro González Iñárritu's 2006 film Babel), and follows Kumiko, a lonely woman living in Tokyo, as she lives a life of solitude (aside from the company of her pet rabbit Bunzo) and relative antipathy to those around her. Going about her daily routine in a state that seems increasingly numb and disengaged, she frustrates family and co-workers as she ostracises herself from a society to which she doesn't feel she belongs. At the same time, she grows increasingly obsessed with the discovery of a VCR tape of the Coen Brothers' 1996 film Fargo. As she comes to believe the film is a map to lost treasure, she makes the decision to uproot from her unfulfilling life and attempt to 'follow her destiny' – the second half of the film explores Kumiko's journey to America in search of this 'treasure' – a journey that describes, more than anything, the bleak experiences of a woman who escapes from her own country only to find herself in an even more solitudinous world.
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter: Review
The film is as much an epic saga about determination in misunderstanding as it is a picture of depression and the human condition. The new Zellner brothers' film's leading its audience on a very personal journey – we come to see the world through Kumiko's eyes, to follow her thought processes, and the film draws us deeper into a sense of pathos towards Kumiko's unique way of viewing the world. On arrival in America she imagines she is, as an explorer, entering 'The New World' – and the film consistently identifies the tropes of epic saga to reject them in favour of a more subtle character drama. The individuals Kumiko meets along the way seem to pose the generic challenges of 'doubt', 'betrayal' and 'hindrance' – indeed there is something distinctly odyssean in this contemporary adult fairytale, but the film's main thrust is of a young woman on the cusp of disappearance from her already shrinking social world.
With consistently stylish cinematography the film is a joy to watch – shots of metropolitan Japan resonate beautifully with the bleak snow-covered landscapes of Minnesota creating a direct sense of the universality in isolation.
Delicately nuanced with an original score
The film's comedic moments – or which there are many – come from Kumiko's resoluteness and sincerity, her charming determination in her mission and inability to be dissuaded. The film's soundtrack by The Octopus Project is entrancing and at times terrifying, leaving us with a sense that we're watching an indie comedy that's always on the brink of becoming a horror – a unique experience enabled by the fact that the film has both Japanese and and American production teams at its core in equal measure.
The film's sense of pure solitude, and the black comedy of a woman lost to loneliness, is a complex rarity. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter reviews from its film festival debuts have been more than positive, and place this low-budget indie sensation among some of the best independent films of 2015.
|What||Kumiko the Treasure Hunter|
|Where||Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
20 Feb 15 – 23 Apr 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Kumiko The Treasure Hunter IMDB|