“Speak No Evil” centers on Danish couple Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) and their daughter Agnes (Liva Forsberg). The family meet Dutch couple Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders) and their son Abel (Marius Damslev), who invite Bjørn and Lousie to their country home in the Netherlands. Patrick and Karin increasingly reveal a more sinister side, while Bjørn and Louise, though concerned, maintain their politeness as things escalate, passing over opportunities to leave and eventually succumbing to a vicious and cruel fate due to their inability to fight back.
Though the film’s horrific finale features one of the scariest scenes of the year, Christian Tafdrup actually combines multiple genres throughout, impressively juggling drama and social commentary alongside the horror elements. But when it comes down to it, the non-horror elements are arguably the most disturbing, as “Speak No Evil” taps into an almost pathological need in our culture to please others and appear polite in social situations.
Speaking to RogerEbert.com, Tafdrup explained how the film evolved from a potential comedy premise to its chilling final form:
“I often get ideas that would fit well for comedies or satire. That’s what I’m familiar with: looking at the awkwardness of human behavior. This ‘cringeness’ between people is something I feel very close to.”
Inspired by his own experiences meeting people he “thought were cool” and turned out not to be, Tafdrup developed his idea into a “social satire and family drama with conventions of the horror genre.” As the project developed, he and his brother identified a specific goal: “We shook hands and made a promise: ‘Let’s do the most disturbing film ever—in Danish cinema.'”