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The Origin of Evil (2022): Evil takes on a new form in this moody thriller

The Origin of Evil, directed by Sébastian Marnier is an intriguing little movie. I knew, essentially, nothing about this film but I read the synopsis and it seemed like an interesting rendition of an Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit. We follow Stéphane, a woman who reunites with her estranged family. She goes to stay with them in their manor on a small French island where everybody knows everybody. But, as she reconnects with them, she discovers that not everything is as perfect as it seems.

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The Origin of Evil, directed by Sébastian Marnier is an intriguing little movie. I knew, essentially, nothing about this film but I read the synopsis and it seemed like an interesting rendition of an Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit. We follow Stéphane, a woman who reunites with her estranged family. She goes to stay with them in their manor on a small French island where everybody knows everybody. But, as she reconnects with them, she discovers that not everything is as perfect as it seems. 

From the stoic father Serge to his new wife Louise and their daughter George, rifts between the family members come to light as our protagonist falls into a web of lies and betrayal. It’s dramatic, morbid in its humour and sharply written. 

I would describe it as a queer, twisted mixture of Knives Out and Succession. And it’s in French. Foreign films might not be everyone’s thing, but I think subtitles are a simple way to get around it, and the story is engrossing enough that after a while I forgot I was even reading subtitles. There are similar parallels to stories with ensemble casts like Knives Out in that this movie also utilises complicated family dynamics. The Origin of Evil manages to change them in a way which makes the viewing experience unlike anything I’ve experienced. Think gawking at the screen as the plot thickens.

What often happens with ensemble movies like this, though, is that minor characters can sometimes be diluted down to one or two character traits and they start to seem less like a person and more like a caricature. This happened with Jeanne, George’s daughter, who is shown taking photos on her film camera. After a while, all I really remembered about her was that she liked taking photos. There wasn’t much else to her. But Stéphane, the protagonist, is a force of nature. She’s smart, and such a joy to watch on screen — no matter what she’s doing. Her character is well-rounded, and the way she interacts with the world around her is nothing short of intriguing. I was so excited to be in her brain and to see where she would go. 

The movie is brilliant at secrecy. It absolutely adds to the film’s allure if viewers go in with no knowledge of what is going to happen. The plot unfolds like a puzzle, with pieces slowly starting to click into place like a game of Cluedo. As lies are uncovered, the story tilts and flips on its head, throwing the audience off course. We’re forced to ride the ride, and there’s no getting off until it’s over.

Marnier wields tension like a powerful weapon, building suspense and a vague feeling which left me unsettled. There were times in the movie when I had to look away a little for fear of a jumpscare that never came. I’m not the most apt person to be talking about filmmaking, but I did realise how well silence was used throughout the film. Long, uncomfortable silences where the audience is forced to sit like a duck, waiting for something to happen. 

It’s slow-moving in the beginning, and I think that’s one of the vices of having a slow drip of information fed into you — after a while I was hoping for more things to happen so that I could start to piece the puzzles together myself. While tension and silence are great for creating an atmosphere, too much of it can detract from the plot. 

Plot twists are utilised brilliantly in this film, and it’s not a twist which came out of left field. It was surprising, but a twist where you think about it and go “Wait, I should have seen that coming!” and it completely shifts your perspective on what you’ve already watched. I won’t be saying anything else about it to not spoil the experience if you do decide to watch it. 

All in all, I think this film does manage to hit the right spot. If you’re looking for a thriller and mystery movie sans jumpscares, then The Origin of Evil will be an enjoyable experience.

 
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