Life for many is a trial. One of the biggest drivers in cinema is the human desire to escape the boring realities of life and spend a couple of hours in a different universe. Escapism is a common theme in modern filmmaking, and in the Zellner brothers’ Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter the central character embarks on a journey for a prize which she feels is her destiny.
Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) lives an unhappy existence working in an office where she doesn’t fit in and feels increasingly alone. She discovers an old VHS of the film Fargo in a cave and becomes obsessed with finding the buried treasure, which she believes to be real. When fate presents the opportunity, she heads to Minnesota to begin her quest.
There are overtones to the Conquistadors quest to find the fabled city of gold throughout Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. Although based on an urban legend about the death of a Japanese office worker, the film itself veers between allegory and thoughtful moral tale. Kikuchi is excellent as the titular heroine and there’s some beautiful cinematography, which is reminiscent of Fargo itself. The deliberate ambiguity unfortunately only serves to undermine the pretence, leading to an unsatisfying, uneven and unbalanced character study.
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Soda Pictures today.