We really ought to stop cinephiles from being influenced by Haneke and von Trier if we ever want to lead happy lives at the theaters.
There’s a wholesome moment amongst this hell-equivalent experience of a movie where Patrick, a host for little-known friends they met on a vacation a while back, builds up and eventually cracks open (through many awkward confrontations) a space of vulnerability for one of his guests, Bjørn, to let go of all his duty as a man of respectable civility, to let lose for an afternoon that we soon learn was intended to be replicated for their entire stay.
This etiquette to uphold politeness is what keeps him and his wife submitting to the avoidable. Them and their daughter, despite being an honest reflection of what we usually uphold to be the typically put-together and ideal family, seem to value not the morally good that pertains to the safety of but more so the pride of their family, which begs the question: is letting people be evil by prioritizing this speak and evil of itself? I mean ain’t it true? Many people make it easy for others to be evil leisurely, so doesn’t that make them evil to some degree?
The first two acts of Christian Tafdrup’s third feature-length and first attempt at horror really works best: it painfully and lethargically throws relatable encounter after relatable encounter at us of those awkward and sudden behavior pop-ups where we witness a taboo action from someone who we may have initially and ignorantly perceived as replicas of ourselves. Visits that feature many of these run-ins challenge our patience, but usually we still conform to our own ettiequte in refusal to match secondary parties, for which we may find rather sickly, as compensation for the suffering they cause us and we cause us for maintaining it.
Selfishly though, I must confess to finding the last act of Speak No Evil to be significantly weaker than the first two because it became the movie I hoped it wouldn’t by delving into excessively dark territory so that it can really hammer in its message. As in your face as it is, I would like to clarify that I didn’t necessarily think it was a bad finale; in fact, it had me on ice, but it betrayed the completely relatable movie I thought it would be, which is again a selfish criticism on my end.
My Letterboxd pal Brandon Habes said it best:
“Funny Games is an easy comparison but it’s not exactly accurate. This is a reverse Funny Games with a series of red flags the characters not only accommodate, but embrace again and again in hopes of being civilized and polite.”
And it’s true! Those first two acts felt as if Funny Games (1997 or 2007) was simply not led by two psychopaths in control of a family by malicious force, but rather two familiarly unusual people in control of a family but only because of the values (likewise to ours) that the victims themselves possess. This is why when it gets into horror cliché territory that it uses to further signify the deeper commentary, it ironically reassured me that we are stuck in a very unlikely setting of a grandiose horror movie, ultimately taking me out of the film. As an experienced person when it comes to unsettling vacation host and guest confrontations to account for, I just wish the entire movie gave me PTSD instead of snatching it from me abruptly in its final moments just to swing home a message that was already well-spoken beforehand.
“Speak No Evil” currently does not have a release date yet.