October 12, 2023

VIFF 2023 | Japanese Serenity – 'Evil Does Not Exist' in the Woods

"Balance is key."
Ryo Nishikawa Ryûsuke Hamaguchi | Evil Does Not Exist | VIFF 2023
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2023—Academy Award-winning Drive My Car filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi leaves the city and highways behind as he explores rural life in a bucolic Japanese mountain village, politely fighting capitalist forces in the elusive tone poem of a slow burn ecological drama Evil Does Not Exist (aka Aku wa Sonzai Shinai).

Hitoshi Omika stars as a respected handyman and single father, Takumi, whose small town is confronted by unwanted development in the form of an oncoming and haphazardly planned luxury "glamping" campground taking advantage of post-pandemic subsidies. This threatens the peaceful existence and serenity of the townspeople in a bare plot that echoes the dispruptive nature of human desire against the environment.

Filmed largely in secret, various long shots and sequences of Takumi's precocious eight-year-old daughter Hana (Ryuji Kosaka) wandering the snowy farming village on her own sets the mood of the poetic film's beautifully yet stoic cinematic framework of nature at peace. It's a truly moving piece of filmmaking that says so much through its stylish yet low-key sense of moody storytelling.

It's a beguiling yet unsettling portrait of anti-capitalist confrontation in the vein of true Japanese politeness. Despite the very serious, often grim tone, Evil Does Not Exist is frequently laugh-out-loud funny in its deliberately stilted dialogue. Still, Hamaguchi contines to make driving in cars and smoking silently (or doing both at the same time) look so damn cool on screen.

Evil Does Not Exist screened at the 2023 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Showcase series at The Park Theatre.

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