THE GIRL WITH THE NEEDLE. Lights in the tunnel [REVIEW]

“The Girl with the Needle” has a script that Lars von Trier or David Lynch would certainly find intriguing.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

18 May 2024

the girl with the needle

Somewhere in the distance, the final echoes of World War I can still be heard. Karoline (Victoria Carmen Sonne), a poor seamstress, no longer waits for her husband’s return from the front. For over a year, any contact has been lost. Now, the woman must focus on making ends meet on her own, no matter how difficult it may be. Unscathed by the turmoil of war, Copenhagen in 1918 looks like a vestibule of hell, and its inhabitants like ghosts. They exist, but it’s as if they don’t. The black-and-white images (excellently crafted by Michał Dymek) correspond with the darkness and decadent nature of the text. Things were bad, now they are worse; one careless step and you can fall into an abyss. “The Girl with the Needle” by Magnus von Horn is not only a critical look at the past and a historical film, but also one that reaches into various genres. There are traces of horror and fingerprints of a thriller. It’s an artistic film with ambitions to reach a mass audience.

“The Girl with the Needle” is dense with plots and swiftly jumps between different themes. Each of these themes could easily suffice for a full-length film. There’s hard work in a factory for pennies and attempts to grasp even a little stability. Karoline takes blows here and there, she’s late with the rent, moving from a relatively comfortable apartment to a shabby hole. An unfortunate affair and an unplanned pregnancy with the factory director may initially give hope that “things will get better,” but everyone likely knows that it can only end in disappointment. “The Girl with the Needle” is driven by a succession of lost illusions.

A recurring theme is also the limited trust and difficulty in building and rebuilding interpersonal relationships. The uncertainty of tomorrow makes everyone think primarily about themselves: to somehow survive, to be able to sleep under a leaking roof, to breathe a sigh of relief after a sip of temporarily available drinking water. Even if one can overcome this, there’s still the need to reconcile with a class-divided society. A leap upward is fundamentally impossible; a misalliance is an indelible stain and disgrace. Behind every good word, there are always hidden interests, the shadow of a friendly favor is exploitation. Alongside help in need and a heartfelt touch comes ruthless evil.

the girl with the needle

Karoline bounces from house to house. Her closest relationship forms with Dagmar (Trine Dyrholm), who officially runs a candy shop but secretly deals with illegal child adoptions. The women find a common language; one needs the other. Karoline feels more secure under the patronage of Dagmar, who likes to dominate and take control over her protégé. Cinema outings, intoxicating ether drops, some form of escape from the depressing everyday life. It’s hardly surprising that just around the corner, an existential catastrophe awaits Karoline. Magnus von Horn consistently moves from a local vision to the realms of a gripping thriller.

In “The Girl with the Needle,” one can find stylistic references and the tone of Paweł Pawlikowski’s recent films (due to the pervading sense of hopelessness), but also the visual expressiveness operating with contrast and shadow seen in films of the Polish Film School. The accumulation of misfortunes, disappointments, oddities, pathologies, and genre diversity makes this a script that Lars von Trier or David Lynch would likely reach for with interest. “The Girl with the Needle” can be pretentious when symbolic staging overshadows realism. However, it’s important that von Horn’s film consistently maintains emotional credibility and, after the critical moment of despair, can lift the spirits. Naive? Maybe. Truly cinematic? Absolutely.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Cinema took a long time to give us its greatest masterpiece, which is Brokeback Mountain. However, I would take the Toy Story series with me to a deserted island. I pay the most attention to animations and the festival in Cannes. There is only one art that can match cinema: football.

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