When it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, director Christian Tafdrup was nervous that viewers wouldn’t find his first horror film, don’t talk bad be scary. But he soon discovered that it was just the opposite. don’t talk bad quickly became the talk of the festival, with many viewers loving it both for its social commentary and unnerving imagery. Check our review here.
Tafdrup wrote don’t talk bad with her brother, Mads, and based on her own experiences meeting people while on vacation.
We sat down with Tafdrup and talked about the film’s wild ending, modern masculinity, and more.
Spoilers for the film are discussed in this interview. Proceed carefully.
After the movie premiered at Sundance (or any other festival), did you get any texts or calls from people so scared of the ending? How was the general reaction?
The first reaction was someone writing “I hope this director has a therapist, and I hope his therapist has a therapist.” It was kind of fun because we were devastated that we couldn’t go to Sundance because it was cancelled.
I was a little scared that people would say the movie wasn’t scary because my brother and I were trying to make a disturbing movie. I’ve never done horror before, and I wanted to do something where I felt a little off. Fortunately, when the reactions and criticisms started coming in, everyone was talking about how disturbing the movie was.
Now that eight months after the premiere, I think people find the film unnerving because it’s so intimate. It’s a situation you might find yourself in. People are not afraid of ghosts; they are afraid of other people, and we were trying to take that to the extreme.
I read in another interview that you really had trouble getting funding because of the ending. How was that journey for you?
Yes, it took some time. In Denmark, you get most of the funding from the Danish Film Institute, and they were very excited about the film. But we also had to get more funding from other sources, and some had problems with the last 20 pages. My brother and I were encouraged to rewrite the ending and put more hope in it. We also had a lot of actors cancel auditions saying they would only come if I changed the last 20 pages.
At first, I doubted the script because I believed what other people were telling me. We tried writing other endings, but it just didn’t work. We would have been disappointed if we hadn’t had the courage to go all the way. It was important to me to be true to the vision we had.
This is a very intimate movie, mainly focusing on six characters. How did you find this set?
I wanted to find a Danish couple who felt a little out of their minds. Morten [Burian] and Sidsel [Siem Koch] they were actually the first actors who came to the audition and they didn’t have much experience in front of a camera because they had theater experience. But I could tell they were perfect for the role, so I did a workshop with them to show them what they could improve on.
It was a little different working with Fedja van Huêt and Karina Smulders because they are big stars in Holland. They were very experienced, and I just needed to give clear direction and “not talk so much”.
Some of the most important scenes involve the child actors. What was it like working with them and navigating the obscure material?
This was something I was very focused on. Some children in the audition started crying during the test screening. I’ve heard that when working on a dark film, you need to create a very light and fun backdrop. The kids’ parents were on set all the time if they needed them, and I was also calm and nice to them. In fact, during the scene where they cut their tongues, the girl [Liva Forsberg] they kept laughing the whole time, so I think they were having a lot of fun while making the movie.
This movie could have been a mix of genres: horror, thriller, satire, etc. Did you always know it was going to be a horror movie?
We decided first that we wanted to make a horror movie. When we were filming it, people said it was more of a thriller or dark comedy than horror. So when it came time to put him in a box, it was very difficult. But then I realized what I liked about movies was that they could be a clash of different genres. I was watching some modern horror movies like Go out and Summer Solstice who were very good with mixing genres. But in the end, I decided it was a horror movie because it has an effect on people and deals with evil. It’s my personal opinion, and maybe it helps to expand the genre as well.
However, there were hardcore horror fans in Denmark who were disappointed. But if this movie was labeled a drama, people would be so shocked by the ending.
You said hardcore horror fans in Denmark were disappointed. What do you mean by that?
In Denmark, we don’t have a lot of horror movies, so fans grew up watching classic horror movies. And then they expect more scares, supernatural elements, etc. In the movie, there’s a lot of talk and satire and it’s slower so if they were expecting typical horror movies then I can see why they would find it disappointing.
When I watched the movie, I automatically remembered the Michael Haneke movie Funny Games because of the tone. Was that an influence or did you have other influences when making this movie?
When we were writing the movie, we didn’t know Funny Games. It wasn’t until someone asked if the movie was like Funny Games that I decided to watch. I love Funny Games and Michael Haneke, but I think the biggest difference between that and don’t talk bad is that my characters could have left at any time, while the cast of Haneke was doomed from the start.
Another interesting recurring theme was modern masculinity and the difference between Bjorn and Patrick. What was it like writing this relationship?
I think for us that was the backbone of the film. The theme of modern masculinity – or the lack of masculinity – was present in three of my films. It is a vision of modern Scandinavian man who is very privileged and very “civilized” but has not been in touch with his inner primitive self. Bjorn [Burian] yearns for this darkness that exists in Patrick [van Huet]. He just wants to scream. I wanted to show what happens when someone who lives by society’s standards has that darkness suppressed.
don’t talk bad It’s out in limited theaters now. Watch the trailer below.
The post Interview with Christian Tafdrup: ‘Speak No Evil’ Director Talks Creating His First Horror Film first appeared on The Young Folks.
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