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By Riley Hamilton

When watching Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s latest film, it’s hard not to be entranced by the natural world. Snow glistens in the morning light. Watering holes look like heaven’s gates. Animals thrive. Even steam appears ethereal. But, in Evil Does Not Exist, it’s not all sun-glistened rivers and beautiful trees. This film has thorns.

In the film, Takumi (portrayed by Hitoshi Omika) and his daughter Hana (portrayed by Ryô Nishikawa) live in the rural village of Harasawa, a small community surrounded on all sides by dense forest and tall mountains. One day, the village’s inhabitants become aware of a talent agency’s plan to build a glamping site nearby, offering out-of-towners an escape into the wilderness. This wilderness is almost Edenic to the locals. The glamping operation is their forbidden fruit. So, you begin to understand their worries when they say, “you need to understand that the very essence of this village is at stake.”

It’s not very often you get a perfect amalgamation of sound and image, but the partnership of Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and composer Eiko Ishibashi strike peaceful, and oftentimes threatening lightning in a bottle. The film often lives and breathes in contrasts: tranquil and threatening, the natural world and metropolitan encroachment, wonder and pessimism, balance and imbalance. 

In fact, plenty of Evil Does Not Exist reminds me of the song Waters of March, a song written by Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim and famously covered by Art Garfunkel, a tune full of patient observations and stark contrasts:

“A stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road
It’s the rest of a stump, it’s a little alone
It’s a sliver of glass, it is life, it’s the sun
It is night, it is death, it’s a trap, it’s a gun.”

“It is life, it’s the sun…it is night, it is death.” Hamaguchi’s beautifully, dark work mirrors those words. The beautiful and the dangerous coexist. He reminds us that death is an equally powerful and as natural a force as life, and begs of us to know that the natural world is a necessity to preserve, not a commodity to exploit. 

One might even ask when looking at the beauty of our natural world, “how could we ever dare to mess this up?” Hamaguchi responds, and Evil Does Not Exist is his answer. 

P.S. Hamaguchi himself said watching the film two times “might be enough to understand that the things that are happening in the film are actually all leading toward and progressing toward the culminating moment(s).” So, we’ll be seeing you again and again at The Independent Picture House. 


Riley Hamilton loves writing, movies, baseball, good beer and shooting on his Polaroid Sx-70. In other words, he’s dope.
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