Evolution (15), film review: ‘Lovely to look at and so soft, yet disturbing’

A scene from Evolution

A scene from Evolution - Credit: Archant

If you were the child that felt sick or fainted at school during the lesson when they wheeled out the video recording of the Miracle of Childbirth, this may not be the film for you.

The title is Evolution, but the subject matter of Hadzihalilovic’s dreamlike, lullingly disquieting film is surely the Repugnance of Biology. Or maybe not – she is not a lady for sharing when it comes to clarity or meaning.

We start underwater, the sun reflecting on the surface of this serene world. But above, waves crash violently on the rocky coastline.

In a landscape of black sand and white houses lives a community made up of small boys and forbiddingly stern young women who sound French but look Scottish.

Young Nicolas (Brebant) doesn’t accept it when his mother (Parmentie) tells him he is sick and he is taken to a mysterious medical facility – all nurses, no doctors. He suspects something fishy is going on.

It would be misleading to compare it to David Lynch’s Eraserhead, except that both are completely sui generis and seem to have been motivated by an unease at the process of reproduction.

The film is gentle, almost puritanically simple – there’s almost no music, dialogue is minimal – but it is still disturbing, at least partly because some very young performers are put in scenes that have a vaguely sexualised context, or which involve mutation or invasive medical procedures.

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It is lovely to look at, utterly mysterious, and will probably be dismissed by many as a bit too precious. It is so soft and yet so disturbing; it’s like a repellent obscenity whispered softly in your ear.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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