For the world premiere of KNOCKING at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Nightmarish Conjurings got the chance to chat with director Frida Kempff and actor Cecilia Milocco, where we discussed how both came to be involved with KNOCKING, how Milocco accessed Molly’s internal world, and what films help influence Kempff’s approach to the film.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me today! Frida, what was it about bringing this story to life that excited you? And for Cecilia, what was it about the script that made you want to be a part of this film?
Frida Kempff: I read the short novel – it’s loosely based on the short novel – and first and foremost it was how Molly was treated by the society and not being a trustworthy citizen. That was the first thing that I really wanted, that felt triggered to me and I could relate to that; I think many women can as well. Even though there’s this small story it’s so universal and it also deals with trauma, grief, loneliness – topics that we also can relate to as well, so that was the main thing. I also liked that it was only the perspective of Molly and being in her shoes all the way. Actually, in the short novel, it’s two main character – the witness and the victim. We know there’s a victim, a naked woman is locked somewhere in chains but I didn’t want to explore that image because I’ve seen it so much. It was more interesting to have the witness.
Cecilia Milocco: It’s a rare role where the character isn’t saying so much in the film. This is like the inner world of a person that we meet in a time of her life where she had a great loss, a traumatic incident. She tries to start over and in this new part she hears this call for help and she’s determined to do something about it. At the same time, her inner world doesn’t get any support. Where she comes from, taking those new steps and it’s slipping away… it’s a great inner struggle too. For me as an actor, it’s very attractive.
Cecilia, a lot of your performance is done through your facial expressions which are only heightened by the beautiful color schemes of red and green featured throughout the film. Can you both talk a little bit about that?
Cecilia Milocco: We had this color schedule that we used when we worked together. Frida did it, and it was a way to equalize the story and my character’s temper. It’s like 5 days in her life and we went from green, that was normal, to red, red, deep red, which was very helpful to equalize where you are in your inner [indiscernible]. We followed that very clear and we played a lot with everything from improvisation to very technical scenes. We talked about Hitchcock, who directed very much that way with like choreography. Then we also played a lot with the improvisation here and there.
Frida Kempff: I had the same color system in every department, but especially for the cinematographer and Cecilia. We would use the same language so that he would follow Molly’s mood/emotional journey. So when she was steady, the camera was steady in a way. Then when she’s having this paranoia we’re using a SnorriCam, so that was a journey itself. Also, the colors in front of the camera were also changing; it’s becoming more and more red. It was a very artful creative team to work with. We were all trying new ways to tell this story.
You mentioned Hitchcock earlier, but were there other directors that influenced you?
Frida Kempff: Yeah, Polanski’s movies like Repulsion, actually the three of his, Repulsion, The Tenants, and Rosemary’s Baby. All of these three movies are in apartment buildings with female lead actors going mad. Also, Darren Aronofsky. I know the DP, Hannes Krantz, was talking a lot about his style and how to do this mental psychology journey with the camera. That was a lot of inspiration.
The majority of the film is confined inside this apartment building. Because of that, did you happen to face a lot of challenges?
Frida Kempff: We shot it in 18 days, so I would say that is the big challenge (laughs). The ride from scene one to hundred we had to, you know, switch, uh, crazy around the scenes. That was a challenge because sometimes the color system…sometimes Cecilia was going to be red and then in the afternoon she was going to be green and that was difficult for sure. It’s always like that in the low budgets.
My last question for the both of you is what do you hope people take away from this film? Especially in terms of believing women.
Frida Kempff: It is a hint to the whole Me Too movement. The victim and witness are women who have not been listened to and I hope we will continue to listen to women and their stories, that is important to me. Everyone needs to be heard.
Cecilia Milocco: It’s hard to stay true to your inner experience and for me, that is like…we call it civil courage, but it’s like standing your ground. It’s a difficult thing to do but you can always support someone else’s inner truth.
KNOCKING had its World Premiere on January 29 at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. For more on KNOCKING, check out our review here.