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Swedish film-maker Johannes Nyholm's surreal story Koko-Di Koko-Da was a late blast of craziness at Inverness Film Festival

By Margaret Chrystall

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REVIEW: Koko-Di Koko-Da

Eden Court


THERE were a select band who had bodyswerved the official final film of Inverness Film Festival for the more out-there charms of Johannes Nyholm’s nightmarish fable.

Different elements come together in the film – not altogether seamlessly – to make a story about grief and redemption.

But first there is a claustrophobic nightmare to get through for us and the couple locked in a horrific relationship drama in the middle of the woods.

As the film opens we meet a strange group, a straw-hatted white-suited old man Mog (Peter Belli), a tall, square-shouldered, black-haired woman with her hair in long bunches Cherry (Brandy Litmanen) and a giant Sampo (Morad Khatchadorian) carrying the body of a white dog, Mog singing a nursery rhyme melody with a sing-song tune that you will get to know well by the end of the movie!

Then action cuts to a shop window and a musical box on which are drawings of the live characters we have just seen, being stared at closely by Maja (Katarina Jacobson), a little girl who has wandered off and is being gently chided by her worried dad Tobias (Leif Edlund Johansson) who has just found her, joined by his wife Elin (Ylva Gallon).

Koko-Di Koko-Da with its surreal nightmarish story.
Koko-Di Koko-Da with its surreal nightmarish story.

And maybe their concern at losing their daughter temporarily is there to give us some idea how deeply they will feel later when that loss is sudden and permanent.

After a birthday treat where a couple of sinister entertainers give even that event an unsettling feel, things go wrong for the family.

And when we next meet Elin and Tobias, they are driving out on a camping trap, nagging at each other the way unhappy couples do.

But inside their tent, it’s in the middle of the night when Elin needs to go out to pee that – with the annoying sound of the mosquito that opens the sequence each time – we meet the trio from the start of the film who have taken on the role of inner demons come to life. And time after time the couple attempt to escape the trio's violence and cruelty as the incident loops again and again.

For the viewer, the repetition of the horror to come becomes almost unbearable, though subtly the scenario changes slightly each time, ending as the camera lifts away into the air to look down on the final moments of the scene and the tiny figures below.

And in between the live action, shadow play sequences play out the story of a rabbit family where tragedy strikes.

The white cat of the poster has an important role to play as Elin – transformed – is led by it to witness a different way.

And when we eventually meet Sampo’s dead white dog while it is still alive, maybe we are supposed to understand by the trio carrying that dead dog from the start that this journey through life was one the couple always had to make, and that perhaps their torturers always had another part to play.

There are moments where the film pushes you to the edge – such as a sequence where Elin is almost sexually assaulted could be seen as gratuitous.

And having to face again and again Tobias's crippling fear and his realisation of the nightmare returning, it's hard to keep putting yourself through that.

But Nyholm'si film is artful storytelling with dark humour buried deep, the story as naggingly long-lingering afterwards as its Koko-Di Koko-Da music box tune.

What happens: A couple and their young daughter go on a special trip to celebrate her birthday, but it ends in tragedy. A few years later the couple go on a camping trip that ends up looping a horror they can’t seem to escape from, but must if they are to have a future.

Who for: Anyone with a taste for the surreal and a liking for fairytale-style stories– and sophisticated shadow play.

Short review: A nightmare world comes alive to give a grieving couple a second chance.

Best quote: Tobias describing wife Elin's shellfish allergy kicking in: “In goes my wife and out comes Freddy Krueger!”

The film is scheduled to return to Eden Court Cinema in March.

Trailer for the film:

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