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SPEAK NO EVIL (2022, DAN) – 9/10

Annual holidays and summer vacations are usually the periods when people are the most relaxed, the most carefree, and the most ready for some new acquaintances. It probably happened to many people that they met some people on summer vacation, connected with them in those few days, spent some time, and at parting promised to meet again somewhere and sometime, even though both of them are aware that it will not happen happen. To their great regret, the Danish couple Björn and Louise (Morten Burian and Sidsel Siem Koch) will decide to meet with the Dutch couple they met on vacation in Tuscany, Patrick and Karin (Fedja van Huet and Karina Smulders). But why not when a doctor from a Dutch province, his lovely wife and his mute son Abel, who is the same age as their daughter Agnes, work so well.

As the exact opposite of all their boring friends from Copenhagen, with whom they spend routine dinners during which they discuss the same topics, and they themselves do not understand why they do it. The complete strangers that Björn and Louise met during their vacation will seem like an opportunity to change something in their lives, and when they receive an invitation to visit the Netherlands, it will be the perfect reason to get out of their standard comfort zone. The obviously ecologically enlightened and dominant Louise, who is of course a vegan because she cannot bear the suffering of animals, but that’s why there are no such problems with fish and other seafood, will blame the submissive weakling Björn for blowing up this year’s flight quota. However, he will suggest that they go to Holland by car because it is not that far, and they will really go on a trip, visiting people they don’t really know at all, and very quickly they will realize that they have nothing in common with Patrick and Karin.

Not overly famous Danish actor Christian Tafdrup, who turned into an exceptional screenwriter and director, but with the previous black-humored anti-romance “Horrible Woman” he showed that he is extremely capable in achieving an uneasy atmosphere and feelings in the film. In “Speak No Evil”, which he presented in the midnight section of the festival in Sundance, he not only perfected this ability, but also made a masterful film, a brutal and shocking subversion that may be a genre thriller – horror, but it is even more dark and perverted. a black comedy in which he forced out some social norms beyond absurdity.

From the very start of the film, when the Danes are still on vacation, some ominous music seems to suggest that it will be anything but an idyllic vacation in sunny Italy, and carefreeness and complacency, excessive security and the feeling that nothing bad can happen to them will come. on payment. And in what way! From the first moment they arrive in the Netherlands and settle into the guest room of an isolated house in the middle of the forest, it will become clear to Björn and Louise that they have made a mistake. People who seemed like a wonderful couple a few months ago, have nothing in common with them. While more Louise and somewhat less Björn, who does not oppose his wife in anything, are typical modern woke parents who are patient and careful with their daughter, the dominant Patrick and Karin, who listens to him in everything, are strict with Abel and stick to the old educational measures, even beating.

And that’s not the only problem. They seem so rude, raw, they will treat their new Danish friends so recklessly, even meanly, it seems that they are deliberately provoking them. Although Louise’s first instinct will be to get in the car and go home the very next morning, they will still adhere to some social norms and be polite guests, give the hosts another chance, regardless of the fact that all the alarm bells have long been lit. They will decide to stay there until the end of the weekend, and it will turn out to be a disastrous decision that will cost them dearly. Although at first it may seem as if “Speak No Evil” is a rude and mean black comedy about smooth, average, decent people who care deeply about other people’s opinions who by chance fall into the mill of a completely different couple who will try to force them to do more not be what they are, Tafdrup has prepared a dark and shocking, deeply disturbing and creepy twist.

It is a film that literally leaves the viewer breathless at the end, a grotesque and even nihilistic subversion, an ingenious allegory about how a close meeting of such completely different people will usually end. As in that popular saying – the wild came and drove out the tame, those tame, peaceful people who believe in social norms, laws and rules simply don’t stand a chance when they find themselves on the home turf of those wild, mean and corrupt people who play by some of their own rules. It is a brutal subversion with which Tafdrup seems to ask the question if there is a limit to which both are willing to go? These tame ones in putting up with everything that happens to them, smiling, waiting for the latter to settle down because they don’t want to offend and anger them, and these wild ones in testing the limits of the former. Are decency and tolerance always the best solution, or is it sometimes better to trust your inner instincts and act differently from what some etiquette dictates? Tafdrup has made another brilliant film that I’m sure will leave many speechless who decide to give it a chance.