Polygon

Evil Does Not Exist’s director unpacks its strange, controversial ending

You don’t even have to look at Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist to contemplate it a conversation-starter: The controversy begins with that title, a daring, unlikely assertion that will really feel at odds with most experiences of the world. Watching the film complicates that response even additional, given a few of the decisions its characters make, and the hurt they bring about to others. After which there’s that abrupt, stunning ending, the sort that may depart viewers arguing over what they really noticed on display screen nearly as a lot as they’re arguing about what it means.

Hamaguchi isn’t any stranger to elliptical, unpackable, or discussable endings: His Finest Image Oscar nominee Drive My Automotive wraps with a protracted sequence the place the viewers is simply watching the protagonist carry out onstage in a multilingual manufacturing of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, adopted by a wordless sequence of one other character going about mundane duties. There’s a substantial amount of that means there, but it surely takes thought, time, and a spotlight to the movie’s 179-minute size to entry. Evil Does Not Exist is shorter and tighter, but it surely nonetheless centers on a 20-minute scene the place residents of a small neighborhood politely increase objections a couple of deliberate luxurious growth within the space.

What’s Hamaguchi getting at with Evil Does Not Exist? From its title to its mysterious opening monitoring shot to that what’s-going-on-here? ending, Polygon had lots of questions in regards to the film. Talking by a translator, we sat down with Hamaguchi to unpack the movie.

[Ed. note: End spoilers ahead for Evil Does Not Exist.]

First: on the ending Evil Does Not Exist

Evil Does Not Exist facilities on a small rural village, Mizubiki, that’s about to be disrupted by builders constructing a web site for luxurious tenting, or “glamping.” At a town-hall assembly, the locals object, and their considerate, thorough evaluation of the challenge’s flaws impresses the presenters, Takahashi (Ryuji Kosaka) and Mayuzumi (Ayaka Shibutani). However once they share the objections with their boss, they study he doesn’t really care about making the challenge sustainable and even worthwhile. He simply cares in regards to the pandemic-era growth grants he’ll earn if he will get the proposal in forward of a deadline.

Takahashi and Mayuzumi join with Takumi (Hitoshi Omika), a widower and odd-job man in Mizubiki, who’s elevating a younger daughter, Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), on his personal. Takumi is a quiet man who’s carefully linked with nature, and Takahashi envies him and desires to maneuver out to Mizubiki and dwell in nature himself. However then Hana goes lacking, and the city rallies to search out her. Takahashi and Takumi are collectively once they discover her mendacity in a subject, the place she’s been attacked by a wounded deer. Takumi immediately activates Takahashi and brutally strangles him, then grabs Hana’s physique and runs. Takahashi will get up and stumbles throughout the sphere, then falls once more and lies nonetheless.

Is Takahashi useless? Is Hana useless? Hamaguchi says he needs to depart these issues as much as interpretation, to ask folks to debate the ending and what it means. “In order to be able to make this happen, I think two things are necessary,” he advised Polygon. “The first part is to end in this abrupt manner, almost leaving the audience behind. But that in itself, I don’t think is enough to create conversations and create different interpretations. It really relies on what the characters do up until that point.”

Why does Takumi assault Takahashi in Evil Does Not Exist?

Picture: Sideshow and Janus Movies

To a point, the tip of the movie is foreshadowed in one thing Takumi tells his metropolis guests throughout the movie: Deer aren’t ordinarily harmful to people, however a gutshot deer will lash out violently, significantly to guard its younger. That is what occurred to Hana: In what seems to be both a flashback or Takumi’s fast psychological reconstruction when he sees her mendacity within the subject, we see that she encountered a pair of deer, certainly one of which had been shot. She tried to method them, and the wounded deer attacked her.

In the identical approach, Takumi is symbolically a “gutshot deer.” He’s metaphorically wounded, each by the approaching destruction of his neighborhood and the pure world round him by predatory outsiders, and by the damage accomplished to his daughter, partly due to his personal neglect. As we study early within the film, Takumi was typically a unreliable father: Hana is just out within the woods alone as a result of she’s taken to strolling residence from faculty by herself, since he didn’t at all times bear in mind to select her up from faculty. Just like the deer, Takumi lashes out irrationally, not on the supply of his ache, however on the nearest obtainable goal.

“I do think he’s acting out of desperation,” Hamaguchi says. “In that moment, I think he does realize in [seeing Hana’s body] that he’s not able to be the kind of father he maybe wanted to be. And I think there are certain clues within the film where we see that.”

Whereas Takumi’s conduct could appear excessive and obscure, Hamaguchi hopes viewers will return and watch the film once more, and see how his response suits in with different conduct we’ve seen from him.

“What I hope I’m achieving is that people feel that each character that appears in the film all have their own individual lives,” he says. “The way they act and what we see in the film are just moments that the cameras happened to capture, of life they each live outside of the film. And once people can feel that these characters actually do exist, then when we see them do something that is not quite understandable, the audience can still feel it’s still possible that they could do these things.”

He considers the film’s ending an invite to investigate and sit with the story: “When this kind of ending happens, I feel it causes the audience to reflect back on what they experienced before that, to rethink what they just watched, and to reflect upon whether their worldview of what they just saw is in was in fact correct,” he says. “That effect to me is a very interesting way to experience a film, and can result in a lot of interpretations. And so if that’s what it is doing, then I’m very grateful.”

Why would Takumi reply to grief by making an attempt to homicide a near-stranger?

Mayuzumi (Ayaka Shibutani), a Japanese woman in a white shirt and grey cardigan, stands in the woods, looking downward at the camera, in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist

Picture: Sideshow and Janus Movies

When it comes to understanding Takumi’s assault, Hamaguchi suggests wanting again at his 2018 film Asako I & II, a couple of girl who falls for 2 bodily similar males (performed by the identical actor) with radically completely different personas, and has to determine which one to stick with. “In that, a protagonist also makes choices,” Hamaguchi says. “And I think from the perspective of the wider society in which she lives, perhaps the choice she makes can be viewed as a bad choice. But I think from her perspective, it was the only choice she could make.”

He says the choice helps Asako see herself extra clearly, and study extra about what she values. “It’s my perspective of living and the worldview that I have in some ways,” he says. “I think there are moments in our lives where we suddenly understand something about ourselves through the choices we just made.”

Equally, Hamaguchi says that when Takumi sees Hana mendacity within the subject, he understands the place his personal decisions have led. “I think in that moment, he realizes through the failures he has had,” he says. “That leads him to try to figure out desperately about what to do. That action might be read as absurd from the surroundings, or from people around him. But I think to me, this choice that he makes is something that for this particular character, could happen.”

Put one other approach: Takumi has been a passive, quiet character all through the method of the event plan, to the purpose the place Takahashi and Mayuzumi attempt to rent him as a liaison with the neighborhood, a supervisor for the positioning who might additionally quell native tensions. In attacking Takahashi, he’s violently pushing again towards the concept he could possibly be drawn to take their aspect towards his neighborhood’s. He’s additionally defending his territory from outsiders, as a wild animal may. And like a wild animal, he’s appearing with out enthusiastic about the implications, and even about whether or not that motion may plausibly obtain his objectives. However that’s only one interpretation.

What does the title of Evil Does Not Exist imply?

Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) carries his young daughter Hana (Ryo Nishikawa) through a snowy forest on a piggyback ride in an extreme long shot in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist

Picture: Sideshow and Janus Movies

Evil Does Not Exist was originally planned as a wordless 30-minute quick movie, a visible accompaniment for brand spanking new music by Eiko Ishibashi, who additionally composed the rating for Drive My Automotive. However Hamaguchi says her music and his location scouting impressed the story of the movie — and the title got here earlier than that story was locked down.

“Before writing the script, when I was thinking about what I could shoot, I went out to where Eiko Ishibashi makes her music,” he says. “She makes her music amongst this very rich natural landscape. It was winter when I was there, and when I looked out into the winter landscape, these words popped up. I thought, OK, it’s very cold right now. Standing here, I feel like I’m going to freeze to death. And yet it’s not that I feel any evil intentions here.

Hamaguchi says a part of that perception got here from residing in an city atmosphere, the place it’s uncommon to be distant from different folks. The remoted neighborhood in Evil Does Not Exist lives distant from that sort of fixed engagement, and the folks in that neighborhood are sometimes alone in nature — which could be a harmful atmosphere, however not a purposefully or consciously inimical one. Because the movie’s story developed, Hamaguchi added characters that do dwell in city environments, and do act in intentionally dangerous methods, however he saved the title all through. “Looking back at the film that we had made,” he says, “it made me think that watching this particular film against this title is probably an interesting experience together.”

However doesn’t the developer bringing chaos to a neighborhood for revenue act in an evil approach? “I think it’s actually a very difficult question to answer properly,” Hamaguchi says. “Say for now, we are saying that there is no such thing as a evil in nature. Then the query turns into, Is human society not pure? I believe we are able to say people are part of nature. However I believe what’s additionally true about people is that there could be extra decisions obtainable.

“We can reflect back on our choices and say, I should have chosen this way or I should have chosen this or that, and sometimes make these decisions of whether those are good or bad choices. As human beings, when we’re living our lives, sometimes we think something is bad, or something was a bad choice. But when you interpret this as desire, I think you can also see that was part of nature as well. This is just how I honestly feel at the current moment.”

Why Evil Does Not Exist opens on a four-minute monitoring shot of a digicam wanting up at bushes

Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), a young Japanese girl in a puffy coat and knit hat, shades her eyes with her hand and looks doubtfully into the camera in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist

Picture: Sideshow and Janus Movies

Whereas the opening of Evil Does Not Exist doesn’t seem to be it’d provide a lot inside on the ending, it really ties immediately into Hamaguchi’s level about perspective, understanding, and the pure world.

“That particular perspective that we see at the beginning is a perspective that only a camera can manage to capture,” he says. “As a result of as human beings, even when you lookup and preserve wanting, it’s not attainable to have your level of axis not shifting, the way in which it does inside that monitoring shot. To be seeing that, with [the camera moving at] a really regular pace […] this imaginative and prescient just isn’t essentially a imaginative and prescient people can have.

“And I think through watching through this perspective, this vision for four minutes, my hope was that the people who are looking can acquire a slightly different way of perceiving, or a different way of thinking. Perhaps it’s closer to how a machine sees, or perhaps how nature sees. This is something that I wouldn’t know. But I think the fact that we, the audience, can acquire a different way of looking, perhaps, can lead the audience into understanding the rest of the film in a deeper level. And that’s why I wanted to start the film in that way.”

Evil Does Not Exist is in theaters now.

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