Secret Identites: Our Review of ‘Evolution’ (2021) on MUBI

Posted in What's Streaming? by - August 10, 2023
Secret Identites: Our Review of ‘Evolution’ (2021) on MUBI

Aspiring critics and cinephiles like myself, at this point, watch too many films. So much so that it’s easy to forget many of them even if they do their best to stand out. I bring this up because I forgot about my first Kornel Mundruczo film, Jupiter’s Moon, about a Syrian refugee who learns he can fly. Years after this and a year after Pieces of a Woman, Mundruczo comes back with Evolution. This is a film that’s just as much of a big swing as Jupiter. This newer film tells the story of three generations of a broken Jewish family. The eldest is little Eva. Russian liberators discover her as a baby in an Auschwitz gas chamber.

Eva eventually grows old (Lili Monori), living alone in a rundown apartment in what we presume is Budapest. Evolution catches her in presumably one of the few times when her daughter Lena (, Annamária Láng) comes home from Berlin. She regales Lena with stories about how the other hostages in Auschwitz told her mother to kill her because it’s either that or Mengele killing her. The film then fast forwards to a few decades ater. Closer to present day, Lena’s son Jonas (Goya Rego) inadvertently sets a fire in the school in Berlin where he goes to. There, his bond grows stronger with a girl (Padmé Hamdemir) who’s grappling with her white passing appearance. She also has a secret that she may not want the other kids to know about.

Evolution took almost two weeks to film and another four to edit, which is surprising because of, again, the big swings it takes. I can only imagine that the rehearsal process took as long as the editing, if not longer. Its use of long takes to tell its story is pretty obvious, a showy technique that feels decades old and some may roll their eyes on. But aside from a few cuts from the ‘Jonas’ sequence, it feels seamless. The cinematography here is also subtle enough, giving hints that these buildings bear witness to more stories like the family we’re watching. It makes us want to peel far back even if doing so exposes more scars.

Another fair criticism against Evolution is the reveal behind the arson. A few people wrote about this reveal, saying that Lena is right about the motivation behind the arson, the school may handle it differently. But Mundruczo and his co-writer Kata Weber successfully plead their case here. Everything in this film feels bombastic but repeat viewings reveal how both Mundruczo and Weber start small. And they aren’t afraid to contract before characters have another explosive encounter. Its attention to detail in the art design reflect theese spaces imperfections. These characters also have different perspectives that Mundruczo and Weber with a certain calm fairness, even within their chaotic lives.

Watch Evolution on MUBI.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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