Evil Does Not Exist
An open end, a magical child, a subtle balance between nature and human settlement, between the human and the more-than-human. Öykü Sofuoğlu and Giuseppe Di Salvatore informally discuss Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s «Evil Does Not Exist».
Japan; but not Tokyo, nor any other urban centres. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi brings us to the countryside, in the middle of Japanese forest and makes of nature or (better) our relationship to nature the main topic of his film. More than underlining the conflict between the natural and the urban, Evil Does Not Exist explores the different and concrete possibilities of finding a balance between the two dimensions – which is also the balance between the human and the non-human, or the more-than-human. This requires a decentration of our perspective, something that the film skilfully provides, thanks also to an original use of the camera.
The open end of Evil Does Not Exist also places nature as ungraspable, a “magical” element that challenges our comprehension and triggers our interpretation, or imagination. My personal key to interpret the film’s end – and then to look back at the entire film – comes from these verses of Goethe’s infamous poem Erlkönig: «It horrifies the father, he swiftly rides on / He holds the moaning child in his arms / Reaches the farm with great difficulty / In his arms, the child was dead.» Accordingly, I see Hamaguchi’s last film as a reflection on romantism; a quite critical reflection actually, I would say, from the perspective of Enlightenment. I discussed this impression with Öykü Sofuoğlu, who had a different interpretation of the end: she stressed the clash of intentions, even the good ones, often destined to unwillingly cause harm. By the by, this line of thought threw some light on the meaning of the somehow enigmatic and provoking title of the film, Evil Does Not Exist.
From this exchange with the Turkish film critic followed an informal discussion. In the podcast that Filmexplorer has produced (above), further topics have been touched upon: from the documentary touch of the film to the work with the actors/non-actors; from the distancing effect of humour to the unusual camera movements; from time perception to the anti-climactic use of music (Eiko Ishibashi) and the reason why an 18 minute long sequence of people pragmatically discussing urban planning appears simultaneously so philosophical and cinematic.
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Evil Does Not Exist | Film | Ryûsuke Hamaguchi | JAP 2023 | 106’ | Zurich Film Festival 2023, Black Movie Genève 2024
First published: January 29, 2024