Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Molocco’s performance is excellent and will make viewers feel for Molly even if they have no experience with this type of situation." | Photo: Ida Zimmerman

Living with noisy neighbours is one of those things that doesn’t sound like a big deal at first, but that eats away at a person. The irritation, the lack of sleep, and, with certain kinds of noises, the fear that somebody might be getting hurt. Molly (Cecilia Molocco) hears knocking on the ceiling of her new flat, so, as most of us would, she goes upstairs to ask the guy living there if he can keep it down a bit. He would, he says, but it’s not coming from his place. In fact, he can’t hear it at all.

In this situation, the immediate assumption is that the guy is lying – perhaps because he’s up to no good, perhaps just because he’s a dick. But what if he’s telling the truth? Not long into the film, we discover that Molly has a history of mental illness. She’s recently been released from an institution after a severe bout of illness possibly related to a bereavement (she dreams of relaxing on a beach with her arms around another middle aged woman). Could she be hallucinating the knocking sound? She tries to talk to the police about it but they don’t take it very seriously. Nervous around authority like many people in her situation, she doesn’t know who to talk to – but she keeps on trying to talk because, worried as she is that a woman could be in danger up there, she doesn’t know what else to do.

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Knocking, which screened at 2021’s Frightfest, builds its story around this ostensibly very simple scenario which you’re bound to have seen variants of before, but underlying it is the very real and widespread horror of how we treat the mentally ill. The film is set in Sweden but the issues it raises are pertinent to most countries in the Western world. Most people simply don’t know what to do when Molly is clearly off balance. The police are only willing to deal with the specific things she brings to their attention and, once those problems appear to be resolved, take no interest in the fact that she’s clearly approaching a point of crisis. Clumsy attempts to intervene, inspired primarily by the fact that she’s inconveniencing others, drive her further and further towards a point where she may simply be unable to cope, and may harm herself.

Molocco’s performance is excellent and will make viewers feel for Molly even if they have no experience with this type of situation. Most importantly, she is not just a mentally ill person, and not just obsessed with knocking. There’s a richness and depth to her character revealed by what may be dreams or memories, by her clothes and the possessions she brings to her apartment, and by the way she speaks and carries herself. She has an internal sense of dignity and an admirable will which make her easy to root for no matter how outlandish her behaviour. There isn’t really a great deal more to the film, but what it has to say about the experiences of people like Molly is important, and it’s a fascinating character study.

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2021
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Knocking packshot
When Molly moves into her new apartment after a tragic accident, a strange noise from upstairs begins to unnerve her. As its intensity grows, she confronts her neighbours – but no one seems to hear what she is hearing.

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