‘Evil Does Not Exist’ Trailer: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi Made His Eerie ‘Drive My Car’ Follow-Up in Secret

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi retreated into a rural village outside of Tokyo to make “Evil Does Not Exist,” his first film following the global success of “Drive My Car,” which won the 2022 Best International Feature Oscar. The Japanese director found himself perhaps uncomfortably in the worldwide spotlight after being known for indies like “Asako I & II” and “Happy Hour,” and so “Evil Does Not Exist,” winner of the 2023 Venice Silver Lion and FIPRESCI prizes, is a return to minimalist basics — an ecological parable wrapped up with unexpected thriller elements, and a movie he shot in secret.

IndieWire shares the exclusive trailer for the film, out in U.S. theaters May 3 from Sideshow and Janus Films, below. While “Evil Does Not Exist” wasn’t eligible for the International Feature Oscar due to its release date in Japan, Hamaguchi had a great run at the 2022 Academy Awards — along with the “Drive My Car” International Feature win, Hamaguchi was also nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

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“Evil Does Not Exist” follows the modest-living Takumi (Hitoshi Omika, previously an assistant director on Hamaguchi’s “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”) and his daughter Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), living off the land in Mizubiki Village, where its townspeople become aware of a corporation’s plan to build a glamping site on their grounds. Two of the company’s representatives arrive from Tokyo to hold a town meeting, playing out in a long take in which villagers air their grievances about the encroachment and its potential impact on their water supply. It’s the water that nourishes the area’s wild wasabi, and cooks the noodles at their beloved local udon restaurant. Meanwhile, the tourism company’s mixed intentions collide with an unsettling series of events that upend Takumi’s already precarious bucolic life.

After “Drive My Car,” about a grieving theater director’s attempts to mount an adaptation of “Uncle Vanya,” Hamaguchi, who speaks little English, found himself being ponied around the awards circuit and taking meetings in Hollywood. The alienation of that experience — Hamaguchi has candidly said he never wanted his star to rise so meteorically to begin with — led to “Evil Does Not Exist.” The film began as footage for a performance piece in collaboration with “Drive My Car” composer Eiko Ishibashi before Hamaguchi realized the material had potential as a narrative feature.

From IndieWire’s Venice review: “‘Evil Does Not Exist’ is a slow-moving film with few epiphanies and no answers to the questions it posits. The film’s reverence for nature and those maintaining its cycles reflects in its unhurried capturing of the village’s flora and fauna, long takes gazing upward at the topiary of the forest bookending the movie, Eiko Ishibashi’s accompanying score a mix of plaintive strings and discomfiting electronic background noise. ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ is hesitant to reveal itself — until an ending reminiscent of Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong’s ‘Burning,’ also centered on a man who decides he can take no more. This is slow, patient cinema that on its surface seems as serene as a Kelly Reichardt film, but has a darker, less hopeful attitude about life lived in a purer world the deeper you go.

Watch the trailer for “Evil Does Not Exist,” an IndieWire exclusive, below.

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