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TIFF 2023 Review: Evil Does Not Exist

Plans to turn a piece of forested land into a resort for vacationers comes into conflict with the local villagers.

The order of things is disrupted when a community meeting is held with a pair of agents from a Tokyo talent agency proposing a camping resort referred to as glamping.  A prevailing concern for the locals is that the project will contaminate the precious freshwater springs.  The suggested revisions are subsequently rejected and it is left to the agents to return and secure the support of a key figure in the village.

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A long tracking shot of a forest canopy during the winter starts off the proceedings with the title going from ‘Evil Exists’ to Evil Does Not Exist’.  There is no rush to the pacing as the camera captures Takumi as he expertly chops wood and collects spring water.  The story feels like a documentary by Frederick Wiseman, especially during the community meeting.  Over time the forest takes on a persona of something out of the faerie tales by the Brothers Grimm as eight-year-old Hana tends to explore talone as her father Takumi has a habit of forgetting to pick her up from school.

Technically everything from the cinematography, editing and music is done expertly and the acting is believable.  An intriguing narrative decision is after meeting the agents through the eyes of the villagers, the perspective changes to the other way around.  A warning from the village chief foreshadows an event but the end result is unexpected and confusing as the motive and circumstances are hard to get one’s mind around.  Consequently, there is an unfinished quality to the conclusion that leads to more questions rather than answers.

The 48th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 7-17, 2023, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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