January 30, 2021 Knocking (Movie Review)
One woman must decide whether or not she can trust her own mind in Knocking, which makes its North American debut at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival beginning Friday, January 29th thanks to Bank Side Films, Moving Sweden, and LÄSK. Attendees can screen the film virtually on Friday at 9:00 p.m. PT / 10:00 p.m. MT or attend a special drive-in event on Saturday, January 30th at 6:30 p.m. PT / 7:30 p.m. MT at Mission Tiki 4, 10798 Ramona Ave, Montclair, CA 91763.
Based on the novella Knackningar by Johan Theorin, Knocking marks the feature narrative debut of the talented Frida Kempff (Winter Buoy documentary 2015, The Wait documentary short 2018) and was written for the screen by Emma Broström (Flocken 2015). It is the story of Molly Aronson (Cecilia Milocco: Involuntary 2008, The Circle 2015), a middle-aged woman who has experienced a traumatic loss that triggered the onset of debilitating mental health issues. On the eve of her departure from inpatient treatment, she is nervous but determined to make a fresh start for herself.
However, many of the other occupants of her new apartment building are rather unsettling, and this includes the building’s super, Peter (Krister Kern: The Unthinkable 2018, The Sandhamn Murders series), as well as leering next door neighbor Per (Albin Grenholm: Midnight Sun series, Fartblinda series). Then there’s the incessant ruckus coming from upstairs, though Kaj (Ville Virtanen: Sauna 2008, Bordertown series), the man that occupies the apartment, says that he hears nothing.
Soon, the haunting knocking sounds have Molly obsessed with discovering their source, and she begins to wonder if they are actually a code. Though before she can make any progress on detecting any meaning, the noises begin to morph into a woman’s voice pleading for help. Confronting her neighbors and enlisting the help of the police only leaves her even further confused, ultimately forced to decide if she is losing her mind or if there is something sinister happening in her new home.
At 78 minutes, Knocking—whose original Swedish title is Knackningar, same as the novella—takes its time to play with viewers’ minds. Told in Swedish with English subtitles, Kempff’s first narrative is a slow-burn psychological suspense feature that explores feelings of gut-wrenching self-doubt along with a fierce determination to uncover the truth—even if it’s hidden inside your own psyche.
The idea of a character that struggles with unexplained sounds in their home has certainly been done ad nauseum in films, particularly within the Supernatural Thriller subset of Horror, but thanks to Kempff and Broström’s tender care in creating the film, along with the carefully nuanced performance of Milocco, Knocking is on another level. With daring cinematography from Hannes Krantz (Like short 2015, The Unthinkable 2018) that utilizes artistic and intriguing angles to relay Molly’s complicated internal struggle, as well as a superb score from Martin Dirkov (Shelley 2016, Enforcement 2020) that encourages immense tension, the film is an immersive experience.
If you don’t happen to know the Knackningar novella well, stylistically, Knocking has elements of psychological suspense, and a feminist slant that is apt to remind some of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper. However, visually speaking, its moody, neutral tones and profuse tension are more in the neighborhood of the fabulous 2020 offering Relic. But, please know, Knocking is not a traditional horror story, but rather an example of the torturous battles we often face within ourselves—complete with visual metaphors and an ambiguous fate for our heroine.
Of course, there is much, much more to this narrative, but at its core, this is the war waging inside Milocco’s Molly and the actress is divine. Elegantly relaying the emotional torment and psychological frailty of her character, Milocco carries the film with her nuanced delivery. While her male co-stars are all solid in their roles, really the focus is on Milocco and Molly’s struggle to decide if she can even trust her own mind. Embodying the stress of self-doubt, the actress delivers a stand-out performance.
But this is all merely a discussion of the most basic layers of Knocking. The deeper concepts that are embedded within the meat of the film lean towards feminist discussions, commentaries on prejudice and judgement, mental health, and more. Most importantly, much like in Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel The Girl on the Train, we’re forced to contemplate when it’s appropriate to interject ourselves into someone else’s life. Apt to weigh heavily on some, while it’s sophisticated layers will simply escape others, Knocking is the perfect movie to inspire endless discussion. And for this, Cryptic Rock gives the film 4 of 5 stars.