Ryûsuke Hamaguchi Interview – Director of ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ / Available On Streaming Rental or Purchase


What is the true cost of disturbing a place’s natural rhythms? Can it be observed over the course of a single feature film, or is it instead something that you have to feel? Evil Does Not Exist tackles these questions with a patience and focus that feels like a creative evolution for a filmmaker known for his patience and focus; in his follow-up to the Oscar-winning Drive My Car, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi has made a film that entrances and disarms.

The community in the snowy, rural Mizubiki Village is disturbed by plans to turn their forest into a “glamping” site – a vacational venture that seeks to replicate camping without any of the involved labor. Through the extended perspective shots of looming trees set to beguiling score and fixed angles of outdoor routines, Hamaguchi unpicks the tension coursing through any rural space facing the same crisis as Muzubiki.

Projektor spoke to Hamaguchi about how he crafts such unique cinema, and how his past work and love for the medium have influenced his latest.

Projektor: You’ve said that the film was born from composer Eiko Ishibashi’s music, but it also feels like you’re responding to nature’s treatment in the wider world. How did these influences converge?

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi: As you mentioned, this really started from Eiko Ishibashi’s request, and so I embarked on this project thinking about how I could make a film in harmony with her music. In doing so, I was drawn more and more into her workplace, which was the natural environment that you see in the film. I really wanted to be true to my own feelings at the time, so once I was in this natural environment I, of course, felt differently from how I generally feel as an urban dweller. As I met people who live in the middle of nature, I was very moved by the words that they spoke, and it also led me to reflect on my own lifestyle. It wasn’t that I was only then led to think about environmental issues per se, rather it made me consider how each decision within our own life creates certain problems.

It’s an incredibly patient and atmospheric film, but it’s also one of your shortest features. Is there a certain way you structure and pace your films? Was the process for this one unique in any way?

When I’m writing a script, I think about the physical feeling that I’m having [at that moment]. I need to feel that the story is in tune with my own body. So once all the elements have come together, I really write through my script. Through that, I figure out what kind of timing feels right or what doesn’t. And that’s also true of when I’m editing. With Evil Does Not Exist, generally, I edited this myself [Azusa Yamazaki is also credited as an editor], it just felt like the right length. When I was making it – there was a sense that I was making a shorter film, luxuriously.

“As I met people who live in the middle of nature, I was very moved by the words that they spoke, and it also led me to reflect on my own lifestyle…it made me consider how each decision within our own life creates certain problems.”

There’s a fascination with the movement of the human body in your films, and I was reminded of that during the long stretches of routine and labor observed in Evil Does Not Exist. Why is it that you’re drawn so much to repeated movements?

I think you’re right, I am drawn to these movements of routine – and I feel drawn to them even as a film watcher. I think routine is something that shows our bodies in the most purified form. For example, [in] the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman, we often see routines by professionals. [The challenge] for me was, how could I bring this sense of routine into fiction? After all, it’s an actor who is doing these routines, not professionals, so it requires time for the actors to train. But that type of training actually allows me to communicate with the actor, and so these moments of creating routines are quite important for me.

The last ten minutes are breathtaking – it feels like such a surprise but completely connected to everything we’ve seen. It felt like there was a shared language between this and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Charisma. Was this an influence on the dark, intense finale?

I certainly cannot deny Kurosawa’s influence on my filmmaking. I do love all of his films, and they’ve given me the confidence to do this kind of ending. But I think many other films have taken this approach, especially in the ‘90s to early aughts. I don’t think it’s just within Japanese films either – many names, such as Claire Denis, come to mind. This idea of the film suddenly stopping towards the end and, through that, leaving something behind for the audience – I remember really liking the experience of watching that. I’d leave the theater with all these feelings still within me. So I wasn’t necessarily super conscious of Charisma’s ending; I think this is just the result of all the films [I saw] that came out of that time period.

The film’s central scene is a long, riveting conversation in a town hall meeting. Do you think your background in documentary means you bring such dedication to hearing people’s perspectives?

I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have a background in documentary filmmaking—I started by making fiction movies and only happened to make documentaries along the way. But back when I was making the documentaries [a trilogy about survivors of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami], I worked with another filmmaker, Kô Sakai. Together, we interviewed many, many people and I started to hear things that were unexpected, things that sometimes I wanted to question. And as I kept on interviewing them, I started to see how they viewed life and understood how their town lived. There was a sense of my life, my views, and my perspective being more and more widened through the process. In researching to make this particular film, I certainly felt a similar kind of feeling.

Evil Does Not Exist releases in the UK on April 5 and in the US on May 3.

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