VIFF Review: ‘Koko-di Koko-da’ is stuck in a time loop with self-loathing

One moment. It only takes one moment to shatter a person. Everyone has a different breaking point, but we all surely have one. For Tobias and Elin, theirs came whilst on a family holiday, during a routine meal for three with their daughter. It’s Elin who gets sick, swelling up and turning red and eventually, the reason they are airlifted to a nearby hospital. They stay the night and wake up early to sing happy birthday, only to be devastated to find their daughter has passed in the night.

To say this is a gut-punch would be an understatement. The film jumps three years ahead to the couple on their way to a camping trip. A few days away from their lives but isolated together with their mutual grief and self-loathing.

What follows is a surreal misadventure, one that leans heavily into metaphor and is —to put it mildly— difficult to watch. As they wake up in the morning, they are accosted by three individuals (a woman with a hunting dog, a unibrowed brute carrying a dead dog, and an old-timey carnival barker) who proceed to humiliate and murder them. And then it happens again. And again. And again.

A time loop is not a new device in film, but when deployed well, it can be very effective, and here it is very effective. Each turn through the loop leads to more humiliating deaths for the pair and lays bare each person’s core. The number of times Tobias simply bails to save his own skin at Elin’s expense is legitimately upsetting.

But as much as the loop brings them to a gruesome conclusion each time through, it’s the lead up to the loop I found most affecting. Tobias and Elin are broken people. Neither is responsible for the death of their daughter, but each carries​ it with them as though they were, and each is spiteful toward the other in the little ways that can entirely poison a relationship.

Koko-di Koko-Da // VIFF 2019
Koko-di Koko-Da // VIFF 2019

This is a time loop movie, so if you think you might see how the loop is resolved, well, I will spoil it for you, but you’re probably not far off. No, the mechanics of the loop are never explained, but that doesn’t matter; what happens during them does. Similarly, two puppet show interludes tell part of their story that are innocent and sombre and beautiful.

Koko-di Koko-da will not be a movie for everyone, but I would encourage everyone to give it a shot. It’s not an easy watch, but if you can approach it on its own terms, there is a lot to unpack and a lot to be learned.


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