Sundance 2021: ‘Knocking’ Cultivates A Unnerving Sense of Claustrophobia That Slips Under Its Own Weight

Color and light are two of the best devices that a movie can use in order to establish tone. Within a reoccurring flashback that slowly unravels like a spool of thread, we see a beach. It’s bright, it’s effervescent, and full of laugher. Knocking makes this the central place of calm for a reason. Contained inside is Molly (Cecilia Milocco) locked in the gaze of her lover Judith (Charlotta Akerblom).

Something tragic happens we don’t quite see – only through slight illusions that depend on Molly. Knocking, directed by Frida Kempff and loosely based on the novel by Johann Theorins, is exposure to the manifestation of depression and loneliness. They are lethal enough alone, but when paired together, the outside world will feel that it’s full of terrors.

Molly is trying to re-acclimate herself into society. She gets a new apartment, goes on errands, and tries to relieve herself from the constraints of a tragedy that follows her like a heavy blanket. There’s a point where she even calls Judith’s phone, hoping she picks up. As she gets settled, a knocking noise happens above her. Molly questions her new neighbors about it, and nobody else has heard it. It’s there where Molly spirals as she incessantly ventures to solve this mystery. To the tune of pretty much-alienating everybody around her.

The key in which the localized setting works is in Milocco’s performance. It’s fascinating. Parts of the movie fall in silence and counts on Molly carrying the narrative by herself. Milocco fully gives herself to this character. To where there is a fine line of feeling sorry for her and also being scared for everyone in her path.

Circling back to lighting, as the movie progresses, Kempff makes a concerted effort to make sure there is a lack of it. Darkness almost engulfs Molly’s apartment, and she’s framed in a way where you can tell that whatever luminosity resided in her is dying. As she’s to think she’s solved the source of this knocking noise, the camera holds tight to her face. As the movie is set during a heatwave, so that even adds to the uncomfortable nature. Molly’s small apartment doubles as her safe place and prison for her delusions.

With all the mystery and intrigue that is built up within most of the movie, it becomes undone by a rash series of misdirects. Given Molly’s mental state, she’s a bit of an unreliable narrator. As she goes into full hysteria within the third act, the good faith that the movie builds taking you on becomes a little unfurled by more questions. Not to say that it had to commit to any concrete ending. Molly’s vantage point has warped a lot of the story. Knocking recalls the Hitchcock-style days of a slow burn, human-driven examination that perhaps overplayed its hand.


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Author: Murjani Rawls View all posts by
Journalist, Self-published author of five books, podcast host, and photographer since 2014, Murjani Rawls has been stretching the capabilities of his creativity and passions, Rawls has as a portfolio spanning through many mediums including music, television, movies, and more. Operating out of the New York area, Rawls has photographed over 200+ artists spanning many genres, written over 700 articles ranging displaying his passionate aspirations to keep evolving as his years in media continue.

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