KOKO-DI KOKO-DA (2019)
Directed by Johannes Nyholm
Written by Johannes Nyholm
Starring Leif Edlund, Peter Belli, Ylva Gallon, Ylva Gallon, Katarina Jakobson, Morad Baloo Khatchadorian, Brandy Litmanen
Describing KOKO-DI KOKO-DA is a disservice as I feel it is a nightmarish art film that should kind just be witnessed for yourself. If you like nightmarish arthouse films reminiscent of the work of David Lynch, Panos Cosmatos, and especially Yorgos Lanthimos, as this film reminds me a lot of a mixture of their work. I’m going to go a bit into what I took away as the meaning of KOKO-DI KOKO-DA, so I suggest you watch the movie depending on your liking to the aforementioned directors and then come back and let me know what you think it all means.
KOKO-DI KOKO-DA is a repetitious nightmare scenario where a couple—grieving from the loss of their only daughter, find themselves trapped in a time loop where they encounter a trio of murderous oddballs in the woods and keep getting killed by them. Obvious references to GROUNDHOG’S DAY, HAPPY DEATH DAY, and VIVARIUM can be made, but this Swedish/Danish film seems more like a dream that you just can escape from. As the story goes on, the couple become aware of their plight, making each scene different from one another even though they start out in the same way. Eventually, through some imaginative shadow puppetry, there some kind of resolution is made.
Literal thinkers might want to take off at this point because KOKO-DI KOKO-DA is a surreal experience with dream logic being utilized pretty much from the twenty-minute mark. After a devastating loss filmed in a cold and stark manner, the couple find themselves trapped in their own nightmare. While it is a film open to interpretation, here’s what I got from it. Filmmaker Johannes Nyholm seems to want to illustrate the monotony of depression and loss. The repeated scenario where the couple faces their end is symbolic (as the three murderous characters they encounter in the woods are illustrated on the music box they bought for their daughter before they died, whistling the titular musical tone hauntingly before murdering the couple over and over). No matter what way direction they choose to run or method of fighting back they use, it always ends in the death of the both of them. I believe this signifies the death of the couples’ relationship once their daughter is gone, an inevitability no matter what course of action they take. There is a resolution. The couple isn’t trapped in this loop forever, but in order to do so, much acceptance and soul searching is required in order for them to even try to move on. The final moments of KOKO-DI KOKO-DA are haunting, but it could also be seen as somewhat uplifting as the couple seem to understand and accept the horrors of the past, though where they go from there is left unanswered.
Despite what meaning you adhere to KOKO-DI KOKO-DA, I found it to be a highly imaginative and terrifying experience. I understand why others make hate this one, but for me, the unapologizing insanity of the woods-people who attack the couple and the ultimate despair the couple feel in this scenario was communicated in a way that hit me on a primal level. Paired with some rock-solid acting by the entire, small cast, the film is something that latches onto you and exudes a sense of unease that you just won’t be able to shake. If you don’t mind that feeling, I think you’ll like this film. If you want to forget a movie before the credits roll, this one won’t deliver.
Many people try to do an arthouse film and fail miserably as it feels pretentious—as if the filmmaker is screaming look at how weird and clever I am. KOKO-DI KOKO-DA isn’t one of those films. This is the work of a true talent in Johannes Nyholm who sheds light on the uncomfortable, the intimate, the shame and the regrets we don’t want to acknowledge to deliver a film that needs some brain flexing to understand, but still resonates on a lizard brain level that is undeniably unshakable.
Plus I guarantee you’ll come out of this film with the KOKO-DI KOKO-DA tune burrowed into your skull!