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The Origin of Evil

In recent years, the slogan "eat the rich" has made its comeback in popular culture, two centuries after it was coined by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Now it is common to see these three words in political rallies and publications on social media, which criticize or expose social inequalities with ever-increasing intolerance and suspicion. Without a doubt, cinema has also benefited from this cultural rediscovery, launching stories that view the ruling upper class with suspicion and that would rather shine a spotlight on those somewhat naive rebels who dare to take a defiant position against them. There is nothing more enjoyable than watching the upper class come crashing down in all their privileged misery. What matters now isn’t so much justice or what is "right", but rather to watch how these people—who are so detached from reality that they have almost lost all shadow of humanity or empathy—suffer.

This is why Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019) caused such jubilation during its premiere. The film, disguised as an ingenious whodunit, has at its core an examination of social classes where the rich, privileged, and abusive individuals receive their comeuppance by the hands of no other than a naive migrant nurse. Another example is Ready or Not (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, 2019), in which the innocent bride survives the deadly game devised by her new husband's millionaire arrogant and unscrupulous family.

Right along these lines is The Origin of Evil, the most recent work by director and writer Sébastien Marnier, and official selection of the 11th edition of the Los Cabos International Film Festival. The film introduces the luxurious lifestyle of the billionaire Dumontet family, as experienced by Stéphane (Laure Calamy), a woman who decides to reconnect with her estranged father (Jacques Weber) after decades of absence. As the pair reunite, Stéphane’s new stepmother (Dominique Blanc) and stepsister (Doria Tillier) make it abundantly clear that she is not welcome in the new family, where everyone seems to be at war with each other with a view to keep and control as many riches from the family business as possible. What is interesting is that Stéphane has her own tricks up her sleeve, proving that she is a far cry from the clueless and self-sacrificing person she appeared to be at the beginning.

At this point in the story, the film breaks from the aforementioned examples, as the protagonist proves to be a selfish and blatantly villainous woman, traits that could alienate the audience. However, the alternative – the hateful rich family – is even less appealing. Without a doubt, we are presented with some of the most despicable characters imaginable, making it difficult to feel sorry for any of them, while also arousing our fascination as spectators.

The Origin of Evil is a thriller whose main character is so driven and scheming that it is best to watch her from afar and hope never to fall into her sphere of influence. Ambition and resolve define this family, but above all, a woman determined to have what she has always wanted, no matter who she has to step on to get there. In other words, the victor of this game shall be the most fearless player, not the worthiest.

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