Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter tells the story of Kumiko, played by Rinko Kikuchi, a lonely woman living in Japan who becomes obsessed with searching for buried treasure. After discovering a VHS tape of Fargo, Kumiko convinces herself she can find the money buried by the characters in the 1996 film.

Written by David and Nathan Zellner, the film’s plot is actually based on an urban legend that surrounded the Coen brothers’ Fargo, and it is intriguing to see another set of writer/director brothers building on this mythology.

The plot sounds incredibly quirky with its VHS tapes and unconventional female protagonist, even more so when you learn that Kumiko’s only friend is her pet rabbit Bunzo and that she hand-sews her treasure maps. But while the film follows a whimsical plot, it is constructed more like a horror movie. The soundtrack is creepy and distorted at times, and it’s all shot in a way that really increases the tension and mystery.

Kumiko herself isn’t a particularly likeable character, with her intense awkwardness and self-imposed isolation quite jarring. Her quirky adventure therefore seems only a few steps away from being her psychotic obsession, and the audience is drawn in with no real idea of how the plot can be resolved or if Kumiko’s journey will lead to the discovery of treasure, fictional or not. That being said, the film is also quite funny, particularly in Kumiko’s interactions with other characters, all of whom want to discourage her from travelling to ice-cold Fargo.

The film is really beautifully shot, making great use of the icy landscape of Minnesota, and is, all in all, a very interesting cinema experience.

3.5 stars

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is showing at Sydney Film Festival on June 9 and 10.

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