Knocking: The Horrors of Mental Illness

By RodneyHatfieldJr for Movies

If you have not heard of Knocking, then you are not alone. I just recently was informed of it. Knocking is a slow-burn Swedish horror-thriller that keeps the viewer in a constant state of uncertainty and suspense. The flick serves up the trifecta of horror: performances, intense atmosphere, and a commentary. The commentary is on the horrors of mental illness. This kind of film is a favorite. 

Synopsis: Molly (Çecilia Milocco) moves into a new apartment after her release from a psychiatric facility. When she begins to hear strange noises from the floor above her, Molly starts to wonder if what she is hearing is real or if she may be experiencing a relapse of symptoms.   

Milocco does a remarkable job of conveying Molly’s grief, brokenness, loneliness, and fear through despondent looks, reluctant sighs, and other non-verbal cues. It’s quite clear that she is feeling a variety of painful emotions. Knocking relies heavily on the strength of its lead and Milocco nails it. Milocco delivers a palpable sense of hopelessness in her portrayal of Molly. Thanks to her powerful performance, the film never drags. 

Even when she is with others, Molly radiates isolation. This is fitting since her neighbors, police, and everyone else discount her experience and immediately conclude she is unreliable. She is believable as a woman who thinks she is in danger. A sensation with which anyone battling mental health issues is quite familiar with. 

The sound, score, cinematography, and set design all complement Milocco’s performance. All of this comes together to instill a sense of hopelessness and anxiety in the viewer that closely echoes what Molly is feeling.  

Furthering that feeling of unease, director Frida Kempff uses tight, closely-cropped shots, even during the less intense sequences to give the impressions that someone is waiting, just outside the frame, to sneak up on Molly and do her some form of harm. 

The most unnerving aspect is the viewer doesn’t truly know if Molly is reliable or not. We understand that she has endured mental health struggles and we know she seems to be the only one aware of the knocking sounds. Adding in Molly, herself, seems to doubt her own experience. She believes that she may be enduring some sort of relapse. Molly appears to be spiraling out of control and into a delusion. That uncertainty fueled paranoia and makes the viewing experience. 

Knocking taps into the inherent horrors of living with mental illness and the way we, as a society, distrust and discount the experience of those navigating mental health struggles. A solid psychological thriller.

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