‘Knocking’ Review: Domestic Disturbances

Grief has left Molly (Cecilia Milocco) in a fragile state in “Knocking,” a new psychological thriller from Sweden by the director Frida Kempff.

After losing her lover in a tragic event at a beach, Molly spent time in a psychiatric ward, and her recovery in her new apartment is touch-and-go. Kempff spins Molly’s suspicions about a mysterious tapping noise into an insistent entry in the horrors of breakdown and isolation.

Molly lives alone but her real solitude comes from having neighbors and a superintendent who look at her funny when she asks about the noises in the building. There’s a kindly grocer and a sympathetic police officer, but otherwise Molly is portrayed as living in a mental hellscape: First a depressive stultifying stillness, her curtains drawn and house cluttered, and then a panicked spiral played up with canted angles, tinted lighting and vertiginous camerawork (care of the Snorricam, a rig mounted directly on the actor).

Pulling off this claustrophobic level of immersion requires better orchestration than Kempff’s drawn-out buildup. “Knocking” unnerves more when landing on singular imagery: a bird scrambling for footing on a metal railing, or, in one wild shot, blood droplets on a cellphone screen showing a yowling fox. Milocco’s face is a sea of balled-up tension but it’s tough for her to sustain this perpetually disbelieved character within a confining screenplay that retreads its beats.

What could be described as a story about gaslighting is complicated by the liberal use of eccentric camera perspectives that seem less aligned with expressing Molly’s distress than with pushing suspense. The film does strike one long, nerve-jangling note, but the style leaves Molly with nowhere to run.

Not rated. In Swedish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 18 minutes. In theaters.

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