Set to premiere tonight as part of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival’s slate of Midnight programming is Knocking from Swedish filmmaker Friday Kempff. Starring Cecilia Milocco, Knocking is centered around a woman named Molly who is trying to rebuild her life after a traumatic event led to her spending the last year in a psychiatric hospital. At first, Molly is encouraged as she sets out to reclaim her life. But after she begins to hear a mysterious knocking through the walls, she begins to wonder if someone is trying to get her attention or if it’s just something that’s all in her head.

Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with both Kempff and Milocco, and the duo discussed their collaborative process on Knocking, the timeliness of the film’s story, and more.

Look for more on Knocking, as well as other film coverage from this year’s Sundance, over the next week, right here on Daily Dead.

So great to speak with you both today, and congratulations on Knocking. Let’s go ahead and start with you, Frida. What was the inspiration behind this story and this journey that Molly goes on here? There are obviously some relevant things to what we see in this movie versus a lot of things that we're seeing in society and culture these days in regard to how we treat people with mental illness and even just women in general.

Frida Kempff: Knocking is loosely based on a short novel called Knocks. I come from the documentary genre, and I always felt I wanted to make movies about social change and what's going on in society today. But as a filmmaker, I was always lacking something in documentaries, because you have all this responsibility of real people, right? Because it's a documentary. But when I read the novel, I realized that I could actually do a film with a story that matters and make it into a genre movie. I thought, “This is me, for sure.” And even though it's a small story, it deals with all these big issues like loneliness and grief and trauma and not getting your voice heard. I enjoyed that it was so many things and it was so universal. As a filmmaker, to step into that world was wonderful. I think that we all can relate to living in an apartment and hear all these knockings and wonder what that is. And after a while, you ask your neighbors, but no one hears it, and that was a really scary thought as well—that no one hears what you hear.

Cecilia, for you, what was it about this character of Molly where you read this part and you knew you wanted to take her on and explore these things that she goes through in Knocking?

Cecilia Milocco: Well, when Frida told me how she wanted to do this novel or this story, I realized that it was really going to be set completely in the mind of a woman who is in her own world. And also, there’s this loneliness, where there's not much action in her life. It's just like the knockings and that’s it. She's trying to start all over again, dealing with this trauma that she's gone through, and when you really look at it, there's not much dialogue in the film, either. It was a very attractive prospect for me as an actor to be a thinker here. We talked about that before, where the camera is Molly’s perspective, and so all you’re seeing is what Molly sees in her own world.

So, how much of the character of Molly that we see in the movie was based on what was in the novel, or did you guys take the structure of her in the book and work through and find these character beats for her between yourselves then? You mentioned the fact that there isn't a ton of dialogue, and yet I feel like we know her really well through this movie, through the little things that she does and just the way that she carries herself throughout the film. 

Frida Kempff: I'm so happy to hear that. I'm happy that you feel that way. The novel was a very short novel, and it was only about two main characters, so it was more like the ticking of a clock. Will she be able to save this woman? I thought that it would be more interesting if this story was more about: is this something or is it all in her head? I wanted to give the audience the chance to doubt Molly and see where that would lead to. When Cecilia came on board, I think that both of our experiences in life were things that we added to the character of Molly. I would say that Molly is like our baby that we share together. And I think that even for someone who doesn’t deal with mental illness, there are still things that Molly experiences here that we can all relate to. We all know her frustrations because we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives.

Cecilia, you are pretty much in like 99.5 percent of this movie. In fact, even when the other characters are talking to you at certain times, the camera is generally fixed squarely on you in most of those instances. Was it a challenge for you to bear the brunt of this project in a lot of ways? You certainly rise to the challenge, though.

Cecilia Milocco: Yes. It was. When you're in it, you don't think so much about it. It's like you think about it either before or after, but you never think about any of it while it’s happening. But it's a responsibility, I think, where you have to have Molly and her journey going on inside of you all of the time. So that was a responsibility, I think. But I would like to add that I think a lot of this, like what you talked about before also, when you experience something, you always at least need one witness. And Molly has none. And that inner struggle was driving her through this entire journey. Frida and I talked about that a lot, because that's a feeling that we can all recognize. I feel that, and especially with women, we often struggle to make ourselves understood and we need to be able to take in a witness to help support our experiences. And I think that lack of understanding was very frustrating for Molly because no one is giving her any kind of support here.


Visit our online hub to catch up on all of our coverage of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival!

[Photo Credits: Frida Kempff photo courtesy of Erik Andersson/Sundance Institute, Cecilia Milocco photo courtesy of Hannes Krantz/Sundance Institute.]

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.