Speak No Evil
Director: Christian Tafdrup
Writer: Christian Tafdrup, Mads Tafdrup
Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev, Hichem Yacoubi
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 28.9.2022
Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) meet Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders) on holiday in Italy. The Danish and the Dutch couple get along brilliantly, their kids – Agnes (Liva Forsberg) and Abel (Marius Damslev) get along well and after the holidays are over, the usual promises of staying in touch are made. When Bjørn and Louise actually receive an invitation to come to Holland, Louise is hesitant to follow through, though. But she lets herself be convinced and the three of them drive down. But once they settle in Patrick and Karin’s house, things start to become awkward between them.
There’s no kind way to say this, but I really, really hated Speak No Evil and its utter nihilism that thinks it’s saying something worthy and truthful because it hurts. No. Hopelessness is not depth, and I, for one, don’t want to have it in my life or films.
Speak No Evil starts off well enough. The awkwardness between the hosts and the guests, how things continue to devolve and the guests struggle between staying polite and asserting their boundaries. Honestly, the prospect of having to stay an entire weekend with Patrick and Karin would have been horror enough for me. And Tafdrup captures that extremely well.
But unfortunately, the film doesn’t leave well enough alone. So there is a twist that raises all kinds of questions of plausibility and needs quite a few plot contortions to work even halfway. And then things really spiral out of control. In the end, the film seems to reach the conclusion, along with Patrick and Karin, that Bjørn and Louise deserve everything that’s coming to them because they are simply too weak to defend themselves.
Add to that that the film affords absolutely no agency to the children – it barely sees them as persons, one feels – and that it is much more interested in the men than the women in the couple (if Bjørn had just taken Louise and her feelings seriously, none of this would have happened because they wouldn’t even have left Denmark, but that is no conclusion the film ever seriously considers), and finally that the one brown person in the film (Hichem Yacoubi) is an evil minion (why would he be doing this? and why does he barely get to speak?) – take all of that, and you have a film that is so contrary to how I view the world, and so despicable in its perspective that I could do nothing but hate it.
Summarizing: stay the fuck away from me, movie.