Overview: A young woman living in Japan finds her solace in the form of the Coen Brothers film Fargo within a battered VHS she discovers under a soggy rock in a cave. Amplify; 2015; Unrated; 105 minutes
“This is a True Story”: The Zellner Brothers channel their inner Coen Brothers in this quiet but earnest depiction of the strive for individuality. The film is subtle, and despite being sometimes masked with quirkiness, also very bleak. It’s ostensibly about a girl looking for the treasure from Fargo, but it really isn’t about that at all. It’s about escapism from traditional destinies and searching with desperation for the life that you want to live rather than the one which society forces you to adhere. Kumiko explores this yearning for purpose beautifully but tragically as it progresses, slowly making the realization that there is no possibility for a happy ending. Beautiful cinematography makes the endless plains of snow seem full of hope and not barren. The shots linger, allowing us to focus on the subtle details and emotions within each scene. An amazing soundtrack, reminiscent of that of Under the Skin, is jarring and makes our hero feel just like the conquistador that she describes herself as: new to this unknown and alien world.
Profundity vs. Comedy: Somewhere along the way, this message gets a bit lost, tainted by unnecessary comedy that makes the film a bit tonally inconsistent. I found the audience that I watched it with laughing at some of the more depressing moments, and honestly, I can’t blame them at all. There’s a sort of awkward humor to be found, one that is completely misplaced that saturates the overarching tragedy that envelops the film. Simultaneously, there’s definitely an amount of frustration that can be afforded toward the titular treasure hunter in that she tends to create her own problems.
A One Woman Show: Still the film does manage to make its theme very dramatic and endearing, made only possible with the powerful but restrained performance of Rinko Kikuchi, who does a great job of displaying the intrinsic pain of her character, as well as the hinting at the pains of having to always hide it. She wobbles rather than walks, with a slight hunch and a glacial disposition. She spends her nights talking to her bunny and puts it on a train because it wouldn’t know where to go in the wild. She mourns over the loss of the VHS, flushing it down the toilet in a funeral-esque manner. Kikuchi creates this vivid and detailed character with a performance that doesn’t need fancy dialogue or exposition; she is Kumiko.
Conclusion: With Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, the Zellner Bros. have allowed us to spectate a breathtaking odyssey, granting us heartbreaking insights. It is a bleak, tragic, yet still powerful and endearing addition to the elongating list of Fargo-inspired media.