Evil Does Not Exist
An Oscar win is always difficult to follow up on, as every work thereafter will inevitably be measured by this supposed pinnacle of success, but if being awarded the Grand Jury Prize of the Venice Film Festival is an indicator of anything, Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi is on the right path.
In his latest work, Evil Does Not Exist, the peaceful idyll of Hawasawa comes under threat when an urban conglomerate announces its agenda to turn the village into a “glamping” (glamorous camping) space for tourists.
With a runtime of 106 minutes, the feature is significantly shorter than the three hours of Drive My Car, but operates at a much quieter pace and with a less action-packed script. Instead, the tone dedicates itself to the way of life it depicts: the calm of the forest and the slow flowing of the stream the protagonists scoop their water from. The harsh cuts abruptly tear the audience from one scene to the next, ensuring they don’t get too comfortable in this place that isn’t theirs to ensconce in. A parallel to wildlife is drawn, in particular, the way usually timid deer react when intruded upon, foreshadowing that these plans of destruction will be met with resistance.
The scene in which the devastating news is broached to the townsfolk, is laced with unexpected moments of levity. Even viewers who have actively chosen life in a city will scoff at the hubris, when, completely baffled as to why the locals don’t fall at his feet at his announcement, the spokesman for Playmode stresses that people from Tokyo would be willing to come to Hawasawa, as if this was the highest honour any place on Earth could hope for – as if nothing else mattered, but to be appealing to Tokyoites.
Hamaguchi’s sense of visual language is virtually unparalleled, the way characters enter or exit a frame assumes much of the narrative. Reuniting with cinematographer Yoshio Kitagawa (the two previously collaborated on Hamaguchi’s earlier work such as Intimacies and Happy Hour), the sparkling images stay with the viewer long after they have left the screening room.
Evil Does Not Exist does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Evil Does Not Exist here: