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The Girl With the Needle by Magnus von Horn

The Girl With the Needle

The Girl With The Needle is Magnus von Horn’s third feature and likewise his third with a Cannes label of one kind or another. The story is set in post-WWI Copenhagen. Karoline (Vic Carmen Sonne) is abandoned, pregnant, and desperate to find an income. Then, she meets Dagmar (Trine Dyrholm), who runs a clandestine adoption agency in a candy store. Karoline assumes the role of a wet nurse, and the women get along well. The Festival programme description goes further than that, which hardly helps the film. The film is inspired by actual events surrounding the most controversial murder case in Danish history.

It is the director’s first historical film, and there is no doubt about the historical context. The film is shot in B&W in an aspect ratio of 3:2, which screams Film d’auteur from the first frame. The images are purportedly painstakingly composed, and there is a score by Frederikke Hoffmeier, which is not exactly subtle either. The word scream is not chosen randomly when discussing this, frankly, insufferable work. It was a long time ago that I saw so many arthouse clichés concentrated in the same film. As far too often nowadays, film student projects come to mind. More than once, I thought about Des Teufels Bad. The Girl with the Needle also dangles around genre elements without much grace.

The Girl With the Needle
The Girl With the Needle

The Girl With The Needle becomes Misery Horn

I will not mention all the cinematic sources from which this film pulls its imagery since those original works shouldn’t have their dignity pierced by this needle. It is not only that the film is highly predictable on a narrative level but also when it comes to the lensing. More often than not, one can pinpoint the exact moment when a camera movement will begin or end. There is no lack of talent associated with the film. Agnieszka Glinska and Michał Dymek both showed what they are capable of in Skolimowski’s EO (2022), but here, they seem as trapped as the story’s characters.

Talking about said characters, the thespians can not be faulted. Trine Dyrholm is always reliable, but the heaviest part is Vic Carmen Sonne’s, and she carries it beautifully. Then I’m not talking about the stale artificial beauty which the film revels in, but she gives a truly powerful performance, which confirms her abilities after Holiday (2018) and Miss Osaka (2021).

As you can tell from the film’s description, The Girl With The Needle will obviously win an award. Which one remains to be seen. I would be okay with Sonne winning, but I fear a win for cinematography or even for best director.

Screened at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival in the competition section.

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