Speak No Evil
speak no evil | christian tafdrup | mads tafdrup | morten burian | sidsel siem koch | fedja van huet | drama | thriller | vacation | denmark | netherlands | karina smulders | liva forsberg | marius damslev | hichem yacoubi | jesper dupont | lea baastrup ronne
Film: Speak No Evil
Director: Christian Tafdrup
Writers: Christian Tafdrup and Mads Tafdrup
Starring: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch and Fedja van Huêt
This is a movie that I believe came on to my radar when this played at Sundance. I’ve waited most of the year now to see this to put it into perspective. I watched this as my first of October as well. Other than the title and that information, I didn’t know much about the actual premise.
Synopsis: a Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness.
We start this movie in Italy. Bjørn (Morten Burian) is there with his wife, Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) and their daughter Agnes (Liva Forsberg). There are interesting things to me here. They seem to have met a couple and Bjørn is annoyed by them. While they are at that dinner, they meet another couple. They are Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and his wife Karin (Karina Smulders). They also have a son named Jonas (Jesper Dupont). There is also a scene where Agnes loses her stuffed rabbit and Bjørn goes to find it. When he returns, they are speaking with this other family. They hit it off and go to have a meal together as well as get to know each other. During this, Bjørn and his family are invited to meet them at their home in the Netherlands.
Bjørn and family then return home. They settle back into their normal lives. Something interesting comes in the mail. It is a picture of both families with a note on the back. It is from Patrick saying they enjoyed meeting and making sure they know they’re invited to visit them. Bjørn brings this up when they’re having dinner with some friends who agree that it wouldn’t hurt to visit them.
When they arrive though, things aren’t as they seem. Jonas doesn’t seem as excited as his parents are saying to see Agnes. Patrick and Karin don’t seem as nice as they were during the vacation. It makes Bjørn and Louise question what they’re doing. Nothing seems that bad in the beginning and there are logical explanations. Things take a terrifying turn though as time goes on.
That is where I’ll leave my recap as well as introducing our main characters. Where I want to start is that this movie is uncomfortable. It is that way by design. It is interesting that it starts with our family on a vacation. I’ve been away where I have met people that I’ve hit it off with. I’ve never actually spent an extended time with them though. It usually would be for a meal and then we go our separate ways. This is showing what could happen when you go farther than that.
With that opening thought out of the way, I want to start with our Danish family. Bjørn seems like a nice guy. What I like is that later in the movie we learn that he doesn’t necessarily like his friends or the life he has at home. It almost seems like his wife is in control there. He was the one that wanted to see this other family. He tells this information to Patrick and they seem to be getting along well at that point. Louise is the one that picks up that things are off. She is bothered by this family that is hosting them and to be honest, I side with her. There are just strange things that are happening. It is awkward and uncomfortable at times. It is out of the ordinary, but nothing ‘horrific’.
Speaking of that, let me go over to this Dutch family now. Patrick says some things while there on vacation that aren’t true. That is a red flag there. He also doesn’t come off as nice as he did during that trip. This is also the same with Karin to a lesser degree. There is an interesting thing here where they say that Jonas had a disease which is why he doesn’t have a tongue. We see that isn’t true as well. It is brief, but I picked up on it. They do things that rubs Louise the wrong way and to an extent, Bjørn. The best thing here though is that when they get brought up, this couple has an explanation. That makes it difficult, but there are two sides to things and that is genius. With how things played out, it made me wonder where this was going to go which I enjoyed.
The last bit here then I want to go into with this story is putting me in the shoes of our visiting couple and what I would do. What is scary for me is that I’m like Bjørn. I’ve been in weird situations where I’ve stayed longer than I should. I don’t like to inconvenience people and I’m just waiting for it to get me killed. I do think I’ve gotten better at least. What makes this worse is that when confronted, the things that Patrick and Karin say make sense. There is logic there so I can believe staying longer. The last bit I’ll say without spoiling is that this is almost a reverse home invasion. There are also reveals that I’ve seen in things like Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes. Since it is something that I’ve seen before though, I do feel that this doesn’t do a lot new. I don’t hate it, but it isn’t as original as I would have liked.
That should be enough so I’ll go over to the acting. I thought that Burian is good as the father here. He is a good guy who gets pushed around a bit more than he should. It felt real the situations that he gets in. How he manages it feels like how I would as well. Koch was good as his wife. In a similar way, she reminds me of my wife and I feel like she would speak up before me. That was good. The best performances though to me are van Huêt and Smulders. Both are so good as coming off normal, but just being off. Things they do can be explained. If we aren’t in a horror movie, then it could also be comical. That makes it creepier to me. Other than that, I’d say that Forsberg, Dupont and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. Both kids do well in conveying things without speaking. I was impressed there.
The last things to go into would be with the filmmaking. The first thing would be with the cinematography. I think this is good here. There are great shots that we get to set up different things. When they’re using wide shots of the landscape, I loved it. Other than that, the rest of it was good. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but when they use them, they’re good. I even cringed a bit there to be honest. I’m guessing some CGI was used, but that wasn’t a problem. Other than that, I think the soundtrack was used to its advantage. There are songs that are in the world of our characters that add to the overall atmosphere which is good.
In conclusion, this one is subtle and builds to a terrifying conclusion. It is a situation that I’d say most everyone has been in at one point or another. It makes you think what you would do if you were in their shoes. The acting is good. I can see characters here that feel real. It can also go brutal when it needs to. This isn’t the most original story though, that would be a drawback for me. This doesn’t do a lot new. I still enjoyed by time with this despite its bleak outlook.
My Rating: 8 out of 10