SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! When Frida Kempff’s Knocking opens, a woman is napping on the beach, soaking up the sun. A different woman comes to her, gives her a kiss on the cheek, and tells her she’s going for a swim. The day seems peaceful, calm, and relaxing. That serenity washes over us in the early moments of the film. However, it all comes to a drastic halt.
The woman taking a nap on a beach is Molly (Cecilia Milocco), who currently lives in a psychiatric ward. The day on the beach is a memory lodged in her mind, which helps her escape from her current reality. She is being released from the hospital and gets her own apartment. As she is getting acclimated and setting up her new place, she keeps hearing a mysterious knocking. She assumes it’s the person who lives above her, so she decides to go introduce herself and ask why he is knocking on the floor. He’s puzzled by her inquiry, and without much fuss, the two move on with their lives. Molly can’t move on for too long because the knocking continues night after night, and she is determined to get to the bottom of it, even if it means she has to go door-to-door in order to figure out where it’s coming from.
“…[Molly] keeps hearing a mysterious knocking.”
Kempff’s feature-length narrative debut is ambiguous and mysterious, packaged as a psychological thriller but not entirely delivering as a conventional one. For some, that may prove alienating. What the director and screenwriter Emma Brostrom (who adapts from a novel by Johan Theorin) do is a bit more interesting than reducing Knocking to a things-that-go-bump-in-the-night thriller. The film is a mood piece, building a sense of unease in the confines of Molly’s apartment.
Outside of the mystery aspect, the movie serves as a slice of Molly’s memory. Milocco, in a mostly internal and subtle performance, conveys a world of melancholy. In the scant 78-minute runtime, she takes us through Molly’s recent history and allows us to know what has happened to her. In one scene, she is looking at her Instagram page, which features the day at the beach with the woman. She makes a phone call and gets Judith’s voicemail, presumably her ex-girlfriend from that idyllic beach day. More than anything, Knocking is a memory piece, and Kempff skillfully conveys as much in such a short runtime.
The filmmaker leaves a lot of the big decisions and interpretations to the viewers, which can sometimes feel like a cop-out if done poorly. Kempff walks the fine line of being frustratingly vague and trusting the audience to grasp the film fully. Knocking, for the most part, lands in the latter category.
Knocking screened at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
"…leaves a lot of the big decisions and interpretations to the viewers..."