Director Christrian Tafdrup Didn’t Realize How Relatable Speak No Evil Would Be

The sinister truth behind Patrick and Karin’s actions is unsettling enough, but the true horror comes from Bjørn and Louise’s seeming inability to push back against their cruel tormentors. Even before the movie’s horrific finale, the couple try to keep up appearances, maintaining a strained politeness in the face of Patrick and Karin’s escalating malevolence. This unrelenting need to avoid conflict and appear comfortable and happy in social situations is actually what director Christian Tafdrup wanted to probe with his movie.

As he told, Tafdrup’s goal was to interrogate the “awkwardness of human behavior” and the resulting “cringeness between people.” The director drew from his own experiences traveling and meeting people he didn’t know who turned out to be not quite as congenial as he’d initially thought. “Speak No Evil” pushes those experiences of meeting new people and the social norms of politeness that accompany them to their limits — specifically, Danish norms.

A native Dane, Tafdrup explained how his culture seemed uniquely devoted to conflict avoidance and politeness, saying, “I once thought suppressing feelings and being dictated by social behavior was a very Scandinavian problem.” But having taken his horror movie around the world and observing reactions from global audiences, it quickly became apparent this was a much wider societal issue. Tafdrup expanded on the experience:

“What has surprised me, and been very pleasing, is that it’s a more global film than I’d anticipated. […] Now that we’ve played in so many different parts of the world, it’s clear we’re all in conflict about how we should behave and what we really feel. That’s so human.”

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