Having first read about Johannes Nyholm’s weird and wonderful movie Koko-Di Koko-Da in an edition of Empire Magazine earlier in the year, it became a permanent fixture on our wish-list to watch. The pandemic swooped in and screwed everything up – but fortunately there was an early release of the movie with BFI and then a release on DVD/Blu Ray, so we got to watch it a few weeks ago.
Our patience paid off, this is certainly one of our movies of the year! A wonderful twist of genres, thoughts, and feelings as you experience horror, violence, comedy, tragedy, love, and a plain strange groundhog day-style journey about one couple’s struggle with grief.
Here we discuss the movie with lead actor Leif Edlund, who gives us a very open and frank description of his experience, as well as some amusing stories from behind the scenes.
Koko-Di Koko-Da completely took us by surprise – how would you describe the movie and the story behind your character?
The plot of Koko-di Koko-da is pretty simple. It’s about a couple who lost their child. In an attempt to save their broken relationship, they pack their tent and go on a camping trip. During the night they get caught up in a nightmarish loop, haunted by three people – one sideshow artist and his entourage. I think you can interpret the film in many different ways, but for me this film is about grief, and the pain it withholds (losing a child or feeling how your relationship falls apart, but being unable to fix it).
I see the characters haunting Tobias (my role) and his wife Elin (Ylva Gallon) as an embodied version of grief, in the film they are a real threat. Tobias makes his best effort to escape these people. As I see it, in the same way we often try to escape painful feelings such as grief, anxiety and fear. We try so hard to escape ourselves in bad times, which only makes it worse when we in the end have to meet ourselves.
In Koko-di koko-da the violence gets more violent as the film goes on, with them trying to get away. When a character is shot on film, there is usually a lot of blood – as an audience we can see that the person is hurt. Or seeing a character’s scar tells us (as an audience) something about that person being hurt in the past. Portraying a character who is going through emotional pain is harder to show and I wanted to find a way to let people know that Tobias was struggling just by seeing him.
So for this role, I lost 20 kilos – in an attempt to reflect his inner life on the physical body. As I believe pain/grief many times do, taking care of oneself does not become a priority. My dad killed himself four years ago. That was, and still is at times – brutal. I got to experience that unexplainable pain. I lost my dad and I lost my light, all I could feel was darkness. I had a lot of people around me, who loved me and tried to support me – but I couldn’t receive it at that time. I tried to escape, and still do at times.
So for me, Koko-di koko-da became a reality (of some sort). But I know, just as Tobias and Elin – we need to face the pain to get out on the other side, even tough it hurts.
Watch the official trailer:
Tell us a bit more about what it was like working with Johannes and how he went about shooting the movie? What were you first thoughts when you read the script?
Ten years ago I worked on a quite special short film (Weekend). The director of that film shared an office with Johannes. Johannes has always had a liking for unusual characters, and I believe that’s where he found some kind of interest in me. We bumped in to each other in the office and had a great chemistry, so when he asked if I wanted to play the part of Tobias I said yes instantly.
I really wanted to work with him. Johannes came from a big production and wanted to do Koko-di Koko-da in an other way, with a small team. He wanted us to feel free in the creative process, and work with out some kind of prestige. We improvised a bit and built the scenes together, even though Johannes had a really clear vision of what the scenes would be about and where it all would land. That was causal, because we only shot during dusk or dawn for several weeks. Johannes puts his soul in every thing he does and is really passionate about his work, it’s easy to get dragged in to that enthusiasm and a true joy to be a part of the universe he creates.
To get to see the world though his eyes are exciting. He wanted Koko-di Koko-da to have a realistic tone too but with almost a theatrical layer (especially in the scenes with the side show artist and his entourage) – I believe it’s that contrast that makes the film so uncomfortable at times. He is extremely careful with details, but also great at seeing and capturing things that happens around him/us/the production. That makes you open up in the same way and notice things that may just passed you by otherwise.
We had many magical moments connected to the shoot of the film, things that wasn’t a part from the beginning but got drawn in to the story. For example: Johannes was in the look out for the white cat, who play’s a part in the film. He had an inner picture of how it should look, quite damaged, tough. There was a few owners with white cat’s who got in touch, so when the cat-scenes came, we brought them out to the forest and on set… they ran away. They did not know us, or the neighborhood. We spent our time that day, trying to find the cats and return them to their owners. Johannes was ready to give up he’s search for the cat when a women contacted him.
She lived in the neighborhood and had a white cat. So, Johannes and Ylva (Elin) drove over to this woman’s house. The cat sat on the porch – and that cat was perfect! He had a scar in his face and a damaged ear (from catfights). Johannes had found him – after all. When they knocked on the door and the woman opened, Johannes and Ylva turned silent. They couldn’t get a word out – the woman in front of them looked exactly like Ylva, but thirty years older. Johannes asked the woman (Katrin) if she wanted to be a part of the film, which she wanted. So in Koko-di koko-da you can see Katrin as an elder version of Ylvas character Elin.
Were you familiar with the nursery rhyme when you were a child?
I was! I remember that our teacher taught us to sing it, in canon. You know, that sort of song that never ends and continues for all eternity – it just keeps on going. It’s a pretty macabre lyric for a nursery rhyme, about the rooster being dead. But yes, I sung it as a child. Once again a magic moment: When we shot the scene with the ambulans helicopter for the very beginning of the film, we realized that the helicopter we used, was named “Rooster” – what are the odds of that?
You spend a good amount of time in your pants and it looks like there were a lot of mosquitos – how did you survive that?
The mosquitos wasn’t the worst part… no, it was all these weeks in the forest. It was probably the worst and coldest summer in the history of Sweden (and the Swedish summers are known to be rainy and cold – but this one took the price)! The warmest day was probably 9 celsius degrees.
Johannes wanted my character to look sweaty all the time, so I was smeared in something called “Glyserol” – that never dries. Just captures the coldness and keeps you cold and damp. I had lost 20 kilos for the part, so I was freezing my way through the shooting! The mosquitos are made as VFX, the real ones were probably dead (it was too cold for them).
Are you a fan of the horror genre, any favourites?
I can truly enjoy a certain kind of horror films! Like The Shining and the first Alien film. But when there’s too much blood and (in my way of seeing it) “unnecessary deaths” I can’t watch it. I am more of a sci-fi and action fan. And thrillers, like 7even or Silence of the Lambs.
What have you got coming up next?
Last year I shot my first English-speaking film, Torasidis, in with I act with Jean-Marc Barr. It’s just finished and are being sent out to film festivals. And I play a part in a Swedish tv-series called “Summer -85“. Another feature film I have a big role in is screened at the cinemas in Norway We are here now. Later this fall I have a part in a film directed by Omar Dogan The Duel, and next year I’m about to shoot two feature films (also bigger parts). So I’m looking forward to three very different roles in the near future.
Where did you grow up in Sweden and what are some of your favourite places to visit there?
I grew up in a small village called Flen, which means “empty spot”, and I think it says it all. But Flen has a really beautiful little lake, perfect for fishing and swimming. But if I was to name a place in Sweden to someone who wants to pay a visit, I’d say Österlen (south Sweden).
What have you been reading, watching, and listening to recently – any recommendations?
I’m reading two books at the moment, This is Where I Leave You (Jonathan Tropper) and The Wall (Marlen Haushofer). The latest films I’ve seen is Tenet and Greenland, I recommend them both! Music-wise I’ve listened to Black Puma, they are really good! And for some reason, I’ve started to listen to a lot of music form the 80’s again (middle age crisis maybe)!
Finally, what is your tip of the day?
My greatest tip is to watch the documentary The Social Dilemma, that’s a film everybody should see!
Interview by Alex Minnis
Already seen the movie and want to dig deeper? Be sure to check out and listen to Anna Bogutskaya‘s brilliant podcast ‘The Final Girls’ and this specific episode director of Koko-Di Koko-Da Johannes Nyholm
If you have yet to see the movie BFI are offering 7 Days free via the Amazon Link below which is worth taking a look at (and if you sign up you give Minnis2Society a helping hand too)!