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Evil Does Not Exist: A Tale About Greedy Capitalism

The first few minutes of Evil Does Not Exist are brutal, to say the least - I'm not talking violence or gore here, but just dialogue-less cinema. It took me all my strength plus an Alpine mint to stay alert through this part of the movie.

This was one of the better movies that was screened in the 15th Biffes 2024.

Evil Does Not Exist 2023 Movie Poster

When the movie dialogue starts it gets interesting - really fast.

The Plot

When a company plans to build a glamping retreat in a Japanese village close to Kyoto, the residents aim to question its construction. The problem is simple, the company wants to build a septic tank that would leak sewage into the mountain water downstream.

For the uninitiated, glamping refers to a glamorous version of camping with all the conveniences of civilization in the wilderness.

Takumi and his daughter live in Mizubiki Village, close to Tokyo. One day, the village inhabitants become aware of a plan to build a glamping site near Takumi's house, offering city residents a comfortable escape to nature.

Hitoshi Omika as Takumi taking water from a mountain stream

The action begins with the talent agency speaking to the village residents on behalf of the company. I immediately thought of my trip to Uttarakhand, especially Rishikesh where I could see mountain streams trickling down to form the Ganges. The water supply in such an environment is the lifeline of the people there (as it is almost everywhere).

Ayaka Shibutani who plays Mayuzumi, Ryuji Kosaka who plays Takahashi and  Hitoshi Omika plays Takumi in Evil Does Not Exist

The talent agency being unequipped to handle such an interaction, rubs the locals the wrong way immediately even with good manners. Takahashi and Mayuzumi are also going through changes in their career and life which all add to the plot and definitely to the climax of the movie.

The corporate folks who are the construction company tell the talent agency and consulting firm that their job is just to hold a token interaction with the locals. The main aim of this company is to capitalize on subsidies offered to such enterprises in Japan while minimizing capital expenditure.

Mayazumi, Takahashi and Takumi

There are a few laughs in this movie and it's not forced but feels organic - even awkward silences. I also like how the locals of the village talk about their place of residence such as the owner of a restaurant who uses the mountain stream water to cook.

She talks about the pride that the locals feel when mountain water is used to cook and that it even enhances the taste of the food. I can personally attest to this when I experienced the best lemon tea ever in Rishikesh - it is probably the water of the Ganges that imparts such a lovely flavor to the tea.

Soon Takahashi and Mayazumi go to Takumi to recruit him as a caretaker under the designation of advisor. While this is happening, Takumi's daughter goes missing only to be found in a dangerous situation in the woods. This leads to a really tense ending scene that at first does not make much sense. The ending of this movie is really disorienting and kind of frames the whole plot.

Takumi with his Daughter Hana in Evil Does Not Exist

The ending highlights the title of the movie which goes on to say that Mother Nature is neither evil nor virtuous, she just IS. There is so much that happens in the last 15 minutes of the movie that it is crazy.

The Cast of Evil Does Not Exist (2023)

Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Evil Does Not Exist talks of the way life works and that the concepts of good and evil are relative to mother nature. Hitoshi Omika plays Takumi, a widower with a daughter who is 8, played by Ryô Nishikawa as Hana.

Ayaka Shibutani plays Mayuzumi a mild-mannered talent agency employee along with Ryuji Kosaka who plays Takahashi the talent agency scout.

When I reached out to Ayaka Shibutani about what the ending of the movie meant, she left things open-ended which intrigued me all the more. She said, "What do YOU think of it?"

Should You Watch It? Yes!

While no one warned me about the brutal slow opening of the movie, I highly recommend you watch this movie. It has great cinematography of rural prefectures in Japan and a solid plot with minimal background music.

This movie won't probably play in theaters, but on OTT networks like Mubi which focuses on foreign movies.


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