Skip to Content
Stream Live
More Streaming Options
Recently Played
View Full Playlist
‹ Flicks with The Film Snob

Evil Does Not Exist

June 17, 2024
Flicks with The Film Snob
Flicks with The Film Snob
Evil Does Not Exist

A country village in Japan is threatened by a tourism company in this enigmatic film from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi.

Japanese director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi is an artist of the liminal—that place between perception and symbol that we experience as mystery. This makes his films difficult, because he refuses to break things down to an easily understandable linear pattern, preferring to let meanings arise at their own pace, and not by suggestion. This was true of Drive My Car, which won the Foreign Language Oscar a couple years ago. And it’s especially true of his latest movie, Evil Does Not Exist.

I reviewed a good Iranian film recently called There is No Evil, so I was surprised to encounter another movie title that is almost identical. The meaning of that other one proved to be fairly evident if you paid attention. But in this film, the understanding, if it comes at all, is delivered through shock.

In a village located in some beautiful forest and lake country in Japan, the people live with a rhythm close to nature. The director establishes an intense feeling right away, with a lengthy sequence, accompanied by the credits, of tall trees moving within our vision, a glimpse of immensity from the point of view of our life below. Then eventually we see, it’s a young girl looking up at these trees. She’s the daughter of a local man named Takumi who is living in a cabin, chopping wood, doing odd jobs around the village. The director doesn’t shorten his actions by cutting; we see the slow pace of his life, walking with the little girl, chopping the wood, moving yet living in stillness.

After this mood has been established, we cut to a town meeting at which two young representatives of a Tokyo company are explaining a plan to build a tourist site nearby for what they call “glamping,” which is slang for glamorous camping, and this just means putting up nice little hotels instead of tents and campfires. They get an earful from the residents at this meeting. For one thing, the planned location of the septic tank is bad—the waste will go downstream to the village’s drinking water. Other aspects threaten the traditional life of the village. Takumi is one of the more eloquent persons objecting to the plan.

The two young employees, a man and a woman, are open to what they’re being told, even though their supervisors won’t budge. This sympathetic couple makes friends with Takumi, and visit him at his home where he feeds them and discusses the village’s issues. But it so happens that his daughter does not return home from school that day, and he organizes a search for her.

After the interesting and somewhat amusing town meeting scene, we may have thought that this was a conventional story with a narrative arc and so forth, but as I’ve already said, Hamaguchi always challenges what we may habitually understand about events. The ending of Evil Does Not Exist provides an unexpected jolt. It’s one of those endings that an audience will argue about later. All I can say is Hamaguchi is presenting us with something more complex and more serious than we might have thought.

Evil Does Not Exist is a strange and unsettling experience.

father and daughter,   glamping,   good and evil,   nature,   village,  


Sign Up