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MIFF 2016: Evolution

Incredible underwater sequences, all tranquil and surreal. Strong symbols and stellar performances. Red everywhere. The ocean literally looms over the black and white town. Fear the rising sea level. Small boys and weird mothers. Insemination and gender roles; starfish, lizards. Water everywhere.

Lucile Hadzihalilovic paints a thoughtful, boldly feminist rumination on a possible dystopia in her stellar sophomore release, Evolution. The film opens with these pensive underwater shots, the sun shining streaks like ribbons into the calm, clear depths. We see a body floating on its surface, at peace, cradled in the caresses of this breathing oceanic expanse. Once water swallows land, will we too be returning to the sea?

On land, everything is different. The women rule in secrecy and feed the young boys black slimy gruel. The seaside town is minimal by design, bordering on a brutalist aesthetic with white square buildings and black sand; colour is for the ocean only. We are in some far off future, or parallel universe; it’s a hideous world, seemingly devoid of almost all land life besides the occupants of this small, unnamed place.

The morning crowd wasn't ready for the film to veer into Cronenbergian body horror but I loved it, delicately edging to the verge of torture porn. But Evolution remains far too clever for that; it works in a properly provocative way. The old man beside me squirmed at scenes of clinical surgery.

Through all the grit and gross, however, Evolution remains beautiful and gentle at its crux. Relationships and nurturing become key themes and by the film’s finish, the camera slowly returns to the ocean, that mass of water bookending the film like it might bookend humanity.

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