Sundance 2022: Speak No Evil (Gæsterne)

Directed by: Christian Tafdrup
Distributed by: Shudder, AMC Networks

Written by Alexander Reams


I still remember going on vacations and meeting the people around where we were staying. There was this sense of excitement, meeting people and getting to know them, swimming together, playing together, having legendary water gunfights. I look back at those memories fondly, but I would always wonder why parents didn’t do the same, they mostly kept to themselves and seemingly relaxed. Now I realize the reason is twofold, one is to get away from the normality of our lives and have some fun in a new environment, and the other reason, the people you meet on vacation might not be what they seem. Such is the study in Christian Tafdrup’s latest film “Speak No Evil”. In where a Danish family meets a Dutch family while vacationing in Italy, soon after the Danes visit the Dutch family again and what looks to be a relaxing trip soon unravels, and the Danes, ever so polite, try to keep their manners about them in the face of danger and peril. 

For the majority of the runtime, Tafdrup presents the film as a social horror. The awkwardness between these two couples is evident from the start and the silences are cutting as the actual killing that occurs. The praise not only goes to Tafdrup but also to the four leads, Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja Van Huêt, and Karina Smulders. Burian in particular shines throughout the film. His awkward comedy is brilliant and embodies this character that is far out of his depth but never realizes it, he always feels like he can protect his family, we feel the dread of what is coming, and we feel sorry that we can’t help this man who just wants to take his family on vacation. Behind the camera, Tafdrup assembled an amazing crew. Erik Molberg Hansen crafts a beautiful and unnerving landscape, much like Vladimar Jóhansson’s film “Lamb” (2021). Hansen’s work as the cinematographer shines brightly without overshadowing the crisp and sharp dialogue by Tafdrup and his writing partner Mads Tafdrup. From the fantastic cast to the lovely cinematography, writing, and directing, Tafdrup is in complete control, enough to where he can keep you in this false sense of calm for nearly the entirety of the film, and then very quickly turn it down a dark path that we all knew was there, but still never saw coming.

“Speak No Evil (Gæsterne)” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Sundance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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