In his third feature film, Speak No Evil, the Danish actor and director Christian Tofdrup criticizes the conventional manners of the bourgeoisie with a terrible irony. A film in which the attempt to adhere to social contract behavior leads to a tragedy.
Tell No Evil can be considered in the category of travel horror films, such as Coming Home in the Dark or an inverted form of home invasion horror films. Of course, the slow-burning style of the film and the aesthetics based on shock and surprise, as well as its distressing situations, have brought Despicable Me closer to the cinema of torture of filmmakers like Michael Haneke. Also, the film’s satirical and biting approach to dealing with social relations and interpersonal relationships will probably remind us of filmmakers like Ruben Ostland.
Say No Evil is a movie that, after watching it, you might feel that being anti-social and rejecting the invitation of people you don’t know very well can be a more appropriate choice.
Tafdrop claims in an interview that he had no intention of making a horror film in the beginning. Therefore, although Tell Me No Evil is classified as a horror film, due to its approach to the fictional world of filmmakers such as Michael Haneke, Ruben Ostland, and Lars von Trier, we are facing a film that uses the material of the genre and its stereotypes in a more artistic form. .
Therefore, say no to evil may be a disappointment for a part of the traditional audience of the horror genre. Although the situation that the film designs, as well as its terrifying ending, can bring fear and terror to the lives of its audience, but the world of the film is more focused on disturbing and disturbing details. By the way, the best moments of “Say No Evil” are those places where it satirizes social relations with biting humor. A movie that, after watching it, you might feel anti-social and rejecting the invitation of people you don’t know very well, can be a more suitable choice.
In the following, parts of the film’s story are mentioned
Tell No Evil is the story of the encounter between two Dutch and Danish families. These two families meet each other during a summer vacation in Tuscany, Italy. Some time later, the Dutch couple invites the Danish family to spend a weekend at their country house in the Netherlands. When Bjorn (Morten Burian) and his wife Louise (Schidsel Shim Koch) arrive at the Dutch house with their young daughter Agnes, they are, as expected, warmly welcomed. Patrick (Fedja Van Hoet) and his wife Karin (Karina Smulders) welcome their newly arrived guests with open arms, although their young son Abel seems to be suffering from a problem.
Tell No Evil can be considered in the category of travel horror films, such as Coming Home in the Dark, or an inverted version of Home Invasion horror films.
While all seems well, the film’s ominous soundtrack heralds an impending danger. Although Bjorn and Louise are initially a little skeptical of the friendliness and kindness of Patrick and Karin, in the end, the desire for a new experience draws them to Holland. Tafdrop’s warnings target the audience rather than the characters. That’s why we feel an unknown threat in all the seemingly ordinary and calm moments of the film. In fact, the film’s suspense comes from the idea that everything is not as it seems.
As in the opening sequences of the film, which takes place in the Tuscan paradise of Italy, everything looks perfect. But the hesitant and worried face of Bjorn, who seems to be suffering from something, as well as the aforementioned music, as a warning, wants to make us aware of a threat under the surface of this civilized and relaxing landscape. A threat that although apparently does not come to the eyes of the main characters of the film.
This threat becomes stronger when the differences between these two Dutch and Danish families show themselves. where we gradually realize that these two families have nothing in common except for children of almost the same age. However, Tufdrop cleverly puts us in a position to ask ourselves if what we know is what we see and hear? Is there really a danger threatening Bjorn and Louise and their child or is all this the result of a misunderstanding? Does this Dutch family really have a sinister plan or are they just careless hosts? Is this the Danish family who behave rudely with their humble and if inconsiderate hosts with their awkward attitudes? Patrik and Karin, although they behave out of the ordinary, never overtly offend them.
Tuffdrop’s screenplay shows its main couple so weak, passive and devoid of any confrontational mentality that it is hard to worry about their fate.
In fact, the rude and reckless behavior of Patrick and Karin, especially in dealing with their child Abel, torments Bjorn and especially Louise. Also, in some moments, the conservative morals of this petit bourgeois couple are attacked by Patrick and Karin’s unusual behavior. As the story progresses, Bjorn and Louise doubt the goodness of their hosts.
But their insistence and concern that the guests may not be ungrateful, as well as their great desire to appear completely civilized and polite, makes them not only close their eyes to what they feel, but also feel guilty for their reactions. Like when Patrick and Karin realize they were planning to leave early in the morning without saying goodbye.
The forced and incomprehensible violence of the final moments of the film, which is held like an ancient and ominous ritual, more than anything else reveals the hollow nature of the film.
Although people usually tend to ignore their inner feelings due to strict adherence to their social duties, Tuffdrop’s screenplay shows its main couple so weak, passive and devoid of any confrontation mentality that it is hard to care about their fate. Also, Bjorn’s shaky and fragile masculinity and even his sometimes admiring (or envious) look at Patrick’s careless behavior could put a lot of tension on his and Louise’s relationship and also make his internal conflicts more serious.
But Toughdrop ignores the potential in the first two-thirds of the film’s narrative in favor of an artificial, unrealistic, and merely shocking ending. The ending, of course, seems predictable to a large extent and is boring and even stupid due to the passivity and inaction of one side of the story. Especially since we’ve seen this story many times before: a relaxing rural setting that turns into a hellish atmosphere for its defenseless characters.
The forced and incomprehensible violence of the final moments of the film, which is held like an ancient and ominous ritual, more than anything reveals the film’s hollow nature. A film that puts its characters in situations in each sequence to test human limitations. In fact, for these films, the characters are nothing but materials for the filmmaker’s experiments. It is no wonder that the tension involved in these films is conveyed through a series of situations that seem disturbingly designed.
Tafdrop, an accomplice with Patrik and Karin, in the style of a film like Michael Haneke’s farces, creates a psychological tension, constantly putting Bjorn and Louise in a dilemma to emphasize their helplessness and helplessness as much as possible. That’s why Bjorn and Luise, without feeling threatened or pressured to stay there, get stuck in this mire by their own hands, just to adhere to the rituals of social relations and the principles of etiquette. Here, Tuffdrop cleverly plays with one of the horror movie clichés; When the potential victims of a horror movie cannot leave the place they are in for some reason.
The experiment designed by Tafdrop for its two main characters, finally takes the form of punishment. Let’s not forget that the weak and timid character of Bjorn and the hysterical character of Louise are, in the semantic system of the film, representatives of the common follies and deceptive appearances of the bourgeoisie. Because these two, contrary to their civilized appearance, are shown as paranoid, boring, racist and preachy people. Even Louise’s insistence on being a vegetarian and Patrick’s sarcastic reactions to this (including his reference to Louise’s eating fish) point to the theatrical and foolish aspects of this civility.
Therefore, the reasons for the manners of these two people do not come from being civilized, but from their stupidity and inner weaknesses. But in a controversial approach, Taffdrup wants to reveal the mediocre nature of Louise and Bjorn through two clearly psychopathic characters who do not even have mercy on children.
In fact, in the situation designed by Tufdrop, the paranoid and xenophobic ideas of the two of them seem completely reasonable, and the only problem is that they do not react much to this situation. The implicit idea in the story of the film, that humans can only be exalted through suffering, seems to be conveyed only through unbridled violence and inhumane punishment. The violence that results is an implicit confirmation of xenophobia in the story of the film. Meeting strangers you don’t know very well can turn into a nightmare.