Evil Does Not Exist

Japan 2023, 106 mins
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

The love for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, which won an Academy Award for Best International Feature in 2022, can feel like a dream. Needless to say, Hamaguchi’s refraction of Chekhov endures, but fans could still fret over just how the director could manage a comparable follow-up. The beguiling Evil Does Not Exist, with its story of a community’s defiance of an intrusive land development, puts fears to rest and reconfirms Hamaguchi’s talents as one of today’s greatest dramaturges.

Plot summaries describe the setting, Mizubiki Village, as close to Tokyo, which might make it sound like a suburb, but that couldn’t feel further from the reality of this sylvan hamlet. A hypnotic opening shot of treetops, tracked from below, sets our clocks to local time, as it were, and establishes the rural rhythms and exquisite score that prevail in the film. Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) is a self-described jack-of-all-trades and knowledgeable local, though it seems as if he would be content keeping to himself, chopping wood, and doting on his eight-year-old daughter, Hana (Ryo Nishikawa, making her debut), whose mother seems to have passed away.

Trouble brews for Mizubiki in the form of a planned glamping site catering to city-dwellers who want to get out of town. As if the project wasn’t already an affront – glamping, not even camping? – Takumi and his neighbours attend a company presentation by hired flaks who know enough only to parry questions. Amid a simmering fed-up mood, one villager after another punctures their talking points and explains the problems: water pollution from the site’s septic tank, risk of forest fires because of insufficient staffing, disruption of migrating wildlife, a threat to local businesses (like an udon restaurant). The mood among respondents varies – mostly civil if wildly impatient – but even though someone else nearly gets physical, it’s Takumi whose flat rebuffing of the project sticks in the mind.

Hamaguchi steers clear of the traditional ecological drama this local/outsider impasse might invite, in part with his elegantly diffuse approach. (Hamaguchi co-edited the film with Azusa Yamazaki.) The story briskly humanises the two company reps by showing them off-hours, driving back to the city, and venting over the bruising reception. Takahashi (Ryuji Kosaka) ribs the more reflective Mayuzumi (Ayaka Shibutani), who confessed their ignorance during the meeting, and now, it seems, meant the sentiment fairly genuinely. They make a return visit, goaded by Tokyo co-workers whose bad-faith strategising reflects a daunting corporate relentlessness.

How exactly the return visit plays out is best left unrevealed, though it starts with Takahashi and Mayuzumi trying to make let’s-grab-a-beer inroads with Takumi. Hamaguchi maintains a mystery around the direction of the film that is sustained by Eiko Ishibashi’s shifting music, which creates a robust structure for the film quite apart from the dramatic development – almost as if it’s channelling the interiority of nature, and of a specific place, but even that feels like oversimplification, and the score can also cut out abruptly to unsettling effect. Hamaguchi and Ishibashi also worked together on Drive My Car, though incredibly, Evil Does Not Exist emerged out of her asking the director to shoot material for a live performance. (In October, Ishibashi will perform her music to Gift, a separate feature directed by Hamaguchi using the same material without dialogue.)

The feedback meeting that crystallises the conflict between the villagers and the glamping concern has recent cinematic kin in the town hall of Cristi Mungiu’s R.M.N. (2022) or possibly the teacher-parent gathering in Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021). But Hamaguchi puts his scene earlier, letting us track how the tensions seep throughout the community, without letting the film be overtaken or defined by the seemingly intractable dispute with pure profit motive. Yoshio Kitagawa’s lambent cinematography lets us breathe in the natural beauty of their woodsy surroundings, though the movie also does not hold up their way of life as somehow pure.

The ambiguous ending of the film lands all the more jarringly after the preceding orchestration of mood and drama. It’s not only a departure from what came before, but it’s not entirely clear what to make of it. Yet rather than frustrate, it feels like the kind of adventuresome move that might actually succeed in bottling something of the unpredictable nature of human behaviour. Evil Does Not Exist – Hamaguchi has said the title entered his mind while visiting the film’s locations – shows a filmmaker willing to muss up his own conceits and take gratifying risks when we might least expect them.
Nicolas Rapold, Sight and Sound, March 2024

Director’s Statement
In this film, I had a wonderful opportunity to work with Drive My Car’s composer Eiko Ishibashi again. The film project began when she asked me to create some footage for her live performance, and 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. It was a very free way of filmmaking, which vitalised 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.
Production notes

Directed by: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Production Companies: NEOPA Inc., Fictive LLC
Produced by: Satoshi Takata
Screenplay: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Original Concept: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Eiko Ishibashi
Director of Photography: Yoshio Kitagawa
Editors: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Azusa Yamazaki
Production Designer: Masato Nunobe
Music: Eiko Ishibashi
Sound Editor/Mix: Izumi Matsuno

Hitoshi Omika (Takumi)
Ryo Nishikawa (Hana)
Ryuji Kosaka (Takahashi)
Ayaka Shibutani (Mayuzumi)
Hazuki Kikuchi (Sachi)
Hiroyuki Miura (Kazuo)

Japan 2023
106 mins

Courtesy of Modern Films

Evil Does Not Exist Aku wa sonzai shinai
From Fri 1 Mar
Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande
From Fri 1 Mar
Perfect Days
From Fri 1 Mar
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World Nu astepta prea mult de la sfârsitul lumii
From Fri 8 Mar; Sat 9 Mar 18:15 + Q&A with director Radu Jude

Never miss an issue with Sight and Sound, the BFI’s internationally renowned film magazine. Subscribe from just £25*
*Price based on a 6-month print subscription (UK only). More info:

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email