Thoughts on Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumiko%2C_the_Treasure_Hunter

This film is a strange combination of inspiring and devastating, because it blurs the lines between integrity, independence and adventure versus exile, loneliness and escape. At first I cheered Kumiko on for rejecting her shallow coworkers and escaping her mom’s obsession with marriage and promotion. Also when she didn’t pick up her phone, when she spit in her bosses tea, and when she shoved her overflowing mail back in the box as if to say ‘I’m not dealing with it!’ But then I watched as these actions escalated, became not so cheer worthy, and resulted in the end of her life.

Lost in Communication

Kumiko has an unsual sense of style, a tired expression, frazzled hair and a strong sense of what she doesn’t want. She is passionate and obsessive, caring although she doesn’t want to be, resourceful and determined – a uniquely beautiful character. She’s just not able to communicate who she is to the world. Similarly she misunderstands reality, sometimes unintentionally but also for the sake of denial and escape. Some of the funniest and most cringe-worthy moments in the movie are when there is this big gap between what the viewer knows Kumiko sees and how people in around her must see her. Like when she doesn’t have money to pay for a coat so she cuts up her hotel room blanket and adorns it as a travellers cape, or when the old woman asks her if she is an exchange student or a tourist and she responds ‘yes’. Unsaid is that she’s stolen her bosses credit card, thrown his laundry in the garbage and left home on a whim to chase a treasure from a DVD that she deep down knows does not exist but it’s the only escape she has from her life. The humor and the tragedy all comes from knowing what Kumiko’s character is like and seeing that it is never appreciated.

Not Caring

It was really refreshing and funny to see just how little Kumiko cared about some things in her life. Her rabbit, her job, her annoying friend, mail, purposefully ignoring the phone. I find most people including me like to cheer for people who have stopped giving a damn. It’s just awesome to see someone with the guts and freedom to disregard the things that don’t really matter.

Escaping

One of the most hilarious scenes in this movie is when she is sitting across the table from her friend’s son when her friend leaves for a moment. After a period of intense staring, and increasingly loud noises in her head, she bursts out of restaurant door and can be seen fleeing through the window. The pressure of marriage, having kids, her own discomfort at the meeting, are too much and Kumiko runs away.

In the last part of the movie, Kumiko is running through the woods in the snow looking for the case of money. After some time passes a shot appears where the camera focuses on her back, and she walks in a slow strange way for a long time as it zooms in. Then there is a terrifying moment when the camera switches and viewers get a view of Kumiko’s hauntingly sick, cold face. This is when you realize it’s no longer a joke, her issues and desire for escape are no longer funny, and she is going to die.

There’s a fleeting beauty that comes with self-destruction. At the start it’s refreshing and fun but eventually reality catches up. Sort of like Amy Winehouse or a young person smoking. Maybe this is why people are always cheering for others that have had enough shit. Just like superheroes they do something that we want to but can’t because we’re afraid of where the consequences lead.