A broken relationship fueled by grief is the engine that runs Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-di Koko-da. The film is prefaced with a vacation Tobias and Elin are taking with their young daughter Maya. They are hit with a seemingly innocuous case food poisoning, but it changes their lives completely.
Three years later, Tobias and Elin are off to go camping, hoping for something that will rebuild their shattered lives. Here the story begins to cycle in an almost Groundhog Day fashion. Each cycle begins with the two of them in the car bickering over a different thing each time. Then they set up camp (not always happily). In the night Elin faces nature’s call. When she leaves the tent, a weird trio shows up.
This trio includes a man dressed all in white, a tall woman (who could well be related to the Addams Family) with a pit bull on a leash, and a brutish man with a vacant look carrying a dead white pit bull. In each version of events, this trio attacks Elin and Tobias viciously. After the first time through, Tobias is aware that there is evil coming for them, but the changes he makes to the events don’t save them. There is also a variation in which Elin wakes up and finds Tobias gone. She wanders the woods until she comes upon a small house in which there is a shadow puppet show.
There is a nightmarish quality to all this. We’re not sure if we are in Tobias’s nightmares or if this has some sort of reality to it. In production notes, Nyholm describes this as a place between sleep and wakefulness. What is dream and what is real becomes blurred.
I see something of a psychological drama going on. For me, the trio represents all the grief and brokenness that Tobias and Elin have been avoiding. We may note that these three characters were on a music box they bought for Maya’s birthday. We don’t know the story behind those characters. But the trio’s connection to Maya is all we need to know about what these strange people mean to Tobias and Elin. As long as Elin and Tobias continue in the way they are going, they cannot escape the return of the brokenness in their lives.
And yet, the film may show a bit of escape from all this in the end. As they try to deal with their pain separately, they never find relief. Perhaps if they face the pain together, it may be hard, but perhaps the bond of love will give them a chance.
Koko-di Koko-da is available on virtual cinema through local arthouses.
Photos courtesy of Dark Star Pictures