Speak no Evil

Speak no Evil

Directed by Christian Tafdrup
Denmark 2022


A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met during a holiday in Tuscany. What was initially supposed to be a moment of serene conciliation will become a nightmare: the situation will slowly get out of hand when the Dutch reveal themselves to be very different from what they pretended to be, until the terrible and shocking final revelation.


How many times has it happened or have we heard (from direct or indirect experience) that we can return from a holiday with new friendships and acquaintances that continue even outside the holiday context?
The talented Tafdrup starts from this premise to paint a picture full of violence and tension that will at times be unsustainable.

Two families so close will become, as the film progresses, distant in habits, ways and manners and it is clear from the beginning that one of the two is hiding a terrible secret.
The libertine and mysterious Dutchmen subjugate the Danish guests in an escalation of mental pressure that involves the spectator, nailing him to the armchair. The declaration of intent is that of the slow burn, of the psychological thriller that will remain on the thin edge of unresolved tension until the last possible moment.
The difference at this point is the execution rather than the idea.
The narrative is slow, dilated, one can safely say that for three quarters of the film nothing happens other than small, but insignificant, clues and moments which in any case are striking in the economy of the story and in this context.

So we find small but powerful disturbing moments, where not a drop of blood is counted but a lot of realism: the child showing his severed tongue, the children’s ballet insistently prolonged, the Dutch bullying of Louise’s vegetarianism, the sex scene spied on by Patrick, the dinner between couples with erotic dancing by the Dutch, Bjørn discovering the photo room, Patrick entering the bathroom to piss while Louise is taking a shower, Louise when she discovers that her daughter is sleeping in bed with her completely naked hosts.
Nothing paranormal, astonishing or loaded with Cg and special effects but which, when inserted in the context of the unhealthy screenplay, gains in effectiveness by disturbing and distressing.

Speak No Evil is an elegant film, divinely shot and performed superbly by the four adults.
A game made of balances and tensions that inevitably slides, carried by the current, towards a desperate source of madness. When what scares is not the supernatural but the absurd and inexplicable human wickedness.
Incredible how the Dutch live their ambiguous dimension in absolute normality and on the other hand we have the Danes at the mercy of courtesy for hospitality and the strong discomfort given by the habits of the hosts.
Above all, Bjørn reveals himself to be a fragile character, completely submissive and oppressed by Patrick’s mysterious charisma, almost frustrated by wanting but not being able to be like him (the moment of the screams is emblematic).

Not a perfect film but one that tells what he wants to tell without jumpscares, without monsters or paranormal entities, with a constant sense of realism and excellent direction.
Tafdrup, in fact, makes masterful use of sound and photography, when he uses sounds and lights and shadows and silences to wink, to divert, to caress and in the end to punch in the stomach, without worrying about break through what is perhaps the only remaining taboo in the cinema and audiovisual sector (violence against children).

Speak no Evil is available on Prime Video.


In the chilling whirlwind of the finale, the cynical answer to the greatest of questions stands out:
Bjørn “Why are you doing this to us?”
Patrick “Because you let us!”

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