DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

The Girl with the Needle (Pigen Med Nalen)

A seamstress faces the terrifying consequences of becoming pregnant by her boss, while an underground adoption agent seeks to relocate babies - Danish fantasy horror with a shocking twist at the end is in the Official Competition of the 77th Festival de Cannes


The year is 1945 and the country is Denmark. The nation is technically neutral, however the wounds of World War 2 are conspicuous. Karoline (Vic Carmen Sonne) supports the effort with her hands: she operates a sewing machine, helping to create uniforms for the neighbouring nations. Her rich and good-looking boss impregnates and promises to marry her, yet their plans suddenly change dafter her formidable mother-in-law-to-be steps on her way. To make things worse, the husband whom she presumed dead returns with an iron mask and a horrific facial disfigurement beneath it.

After many twists of fate, Karoline ends up jobless and with a baby on her arms. She attempts an abortion with a giant needle and nearly kills herself. Middle-aged Dagmar (Trine Dyrholm) helps to stop the bleeding. She gives her baby to the kind stranger in the hope that the nameless child will end up with a loving foster family. Dagmar runs a clandestine adoption agency. Karoline moves in with her unexpected saviour and her seven-year-old daughter Erena (Ava Knox Martin), who turns out to be not as kind and generous as she first seemed. In fact, she possesses a very perverse sense of solidarity.

The first half of the The Girl with the Needle evokes David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1980): the surrealist body horror, the chiaroscuro photography, horrific face disfigurement, and empathy for the marginalised. Both films are an ode to freaks, ghouls, and outcasts.

The second half of the movie is dominated by Dyrholm’s character, as the topic shifts from failed motherhood to a very Scandinavian type of nihilism. Dagmar boasts a self-proclaimed sense of heroism, guided by the belief that the world is a very bad place. This drives her to extreme measures, ultimately making the older woman the most important film character. She is the one responsible for the big, shocking twist at the end of the movie (based on the life of Dagmar Overbye, two decades earlier). What started out as a Lynchian fable ends up as a far more macabre story of tragedy and hopelessness. There is a strong topic parallel with the Austrian film The Devil’s Bath (Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala), which premiered earlier this year in Berlin: both movies are shocking, real stories from the past involving women, babies, and a very warped notion of redemption. I can’t tell you more without spoiling both films for you.

The production values are impeccable. The black-and-photography is sharp and clear, vaguely reminiscent of German expressionism. The gingerly crafted mise-en-scene transports viewers right into the heart of post-War Europe, bang in the middle of the 20th century. The nerve-wrecking score adds the perfect touch of horror to this disturbing fantasy drama. On the other hand, this is a movie torn between priorities: Karoline’s disastrous predicament versus Dagmar’s desire to fix the world through very questionable means. Instead of complementing one other, these two personal stories compete with each other. The Girl with the Needle isn’t a watershed in the history of film. It lacks the surrealist magnificence of Eraserhead, and punch-in-the-face factor of The Devil’s Bath. But it will still enrapture and shock you.

The Girl with the Needle just premiered in the Official Competition of the 77th Cannes International Film Festival.

By Victor Fraga - 18-05-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More

The Here After (Efterskalv)

Magnus von Horn

Maysa Monção - 09-03-2016

For how long does a teenage criminal have to suffer and pay for making just one single mistake? [Read More...]

The Performance

Shira Piven

Victor Fraga - 16-06-2024

Jewish American tap dancer has to stomp his way to the top of the Nazi regime, in what's possibly the worst film adaptation of Arthur Miller ever made - from the 23rd edtion of Tiff Romania [Read More...]


Alisher Utev

Victor Fraga - 16-06-2024

Sombre and elegiac Kazakh drama observes the shocking repercussions of modern-day slavery, and unbridled sadism - from the 23rd edition of Tiff Romania [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *