Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s latest, Evil Does Not Exist, received a 7-minute, 50-second ovation at its Venice Film Festival world premiere on the Lido on Monday. The applause for the director of last year’s Best International Feature Oscar winner Drive My Car only ended when Hamaguchi and his team got up to leave.
After the ovation, Hamaguchi stopped in the auditorium lobby to take selfies and sign autographs.
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Evil Does Not Exist was a sort of under-the-radar title coming into the festival. The story centers on Takumi and his daughter Hana who live in Mizubiki Village, close to Tokyo. Like generations before them, they live a modest life according to the cycles and order of nature. 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. When two company representatives from Tokyo arrive in the village to hold a meeting, it becomes clear that the project will have a negative impact on the local water supply, causing unrest. The agency’s mismatched intentions endanger both the ecological balance of the plateau and their way of life, with an aftermath that affects Takumi’s life deeply.
In her review for Deadline, Stephanie Bunbury called Evil Does Not Exist a “brilliant piece of work” and a “constantly surprising, intellectually agile film.” It stars Hitoshi Omika, Ryo Nishikawa, Ryuji Kosaka, Ayaka Shibutani, Hazuki Kikuchi and Hiroyuki Miura.
Hamaguchi has previously explained that the project began when composer Eiko Ishibashi asked him to create some footage for her live performance Gift. “I conceived of the film as an original source material for the footage. As I became more and more connected to this film we were creating, Eiko and her friends helped me a lot in the shooting, too. This very free way of filmmaking vitalized me a lot. After the shoot, I felt that I had captured interactions of people in nature and completed the work as a single film with Eiko Ishibashi’s beautiful theme music. I hope the audience will feel the life force of the figures that are stirring in nature and music.”
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