Cannes Film Festival competition entry The Girl With The Needle may be dark and Dickensian but has a ray of hope

The Girl With The Needle places star Vic Carmen Sonne for an excellent chance to walk away with the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Cannes Film Festival‘s competing-for-Palme d’Or entry, The Girl With The Needle, is dark, depressing and Dickensian. Set in the days when the devastating World War I clouds had just begun to move away from Europe, Magnus von Horn’s movie swirls around a wretchedly poor working class woman, who finds herself without a job and carrying the child of an aristocratically rich man.

Karoline (played by Vic Carmen Sonne with the haunting looks of one who would be termed a fallen woman in contemporary times) lives in war-ravaged Copenhagen. Her husband, Peter (Besir Zeciri), is missing in action, and when Jorgen (Joachim Fjelstrup), the rich factory owner, finds himself attracted to her, Karoline’s social status begins to fly up, up away from her gloomy existence. She even rejects Peter, when he suddenly appears, his face grotesquely disfigured from a battering on the battlefield.

Sadly, Karoline finds herself back in the alleyways after Jorgen’s dictatorial mother has her thrown out of her stately house. Jorgen turns out to be a weak man, hopelessly under the influence of his mother, who controls the family wealth.

Karoline tries to abort the child in a public bath house. But fails. However, she meets a seemingly kind woman, Dagmar (Trine Dyrholm), who runs a candy story but also says she finds adoptive parents for unwanted babies. She makes quite a pie out of these transactions, though hiding a horrible truth.

Based on a series of murders that rocked Copenhagen, The Girl With The Needle (she, though, has several), comes from a director who had made Sweat for the scrapped 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Also set in the post-World War I ravaged Copenhagen, it was about a young influencer whose life crashes after initial euphoria. It may seem that Von Horn specialises in tales of this type in which women find themselves pushed to ecstatic heights only to be dumped later into dark and gloom. Karoline is one more of his victims in a black-and-white narrative heightened by brilliant detailing by director of photography Michal Dymek and production designer Jagna Dobesz. They create absolute Gothic horror through dirty streets, cramped rooms and killer carriages.

The opening images of ghostly faces contorted in agony and despair prepare us for what is coming. And as we see a pale Karoline with sunken cheeks and pained eyes, we know that the camera has found its hapless heroine in a sad script by Von Horn and Line Langebek. The world is a horrible place, Dagmar tells Karoline. But we need to believe it is not, she adds, and the Karoline tries to get into that spirit by piecing together a family life that at one point seemed shattered beyond hope and redemption.

Probably, the film is too dark for a jury lead by Greta Gerwig, whose Barbie in 2023 was a deliriously happy look at a fairytale kind of existence. However, Sonne stands an excellent chance to walk away with the Best Actress Award on May 25, when the prizes would be announced.

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