The Girl with the Needle

It is hard to write about The Girl with the Needle - partly because it is best not to provide any details abot the story, partly because its subtleties prove insufficient. It is a film with perhaps the best opening sequence for an arthouse film in ages, and a new magnitude in Magnus von Horn's own career, but for the rest of the film, feels slightly "muffled".
It is sufficient to say that the film is set at the end of the Great War, a moment of fracture, mental and physical - the latter is the case of the veterans, the first mass generation to experience shell shock and mutilation. This seems to be the subtext around which the feature mostly moves, with a continuous return to the motif of the crippled human face, with some baconian derivations.

The stylistic choice ends up less ambitious: a black and white 4:3, partly in the veign of Pawlikowski, and with his film's careful attention to textures and framing, partly in the veign of Murnau and the less artificious side of german expressionism - without however inheriting either's mood. Shooting in black and white after Ida and Cold War is certainly a challenge - one that Michal Dymek overcomes. 

The subject matter of The Girl with the Needle is extremely dark, there is no question. Suprisingly, the feeling after viewing the film is that it could have been darker, eerier. The opening scene does set a frightening atmosphere, but the rest of the film maintains that degree of disturbiness only partially. The film deals with a very specific trope that is recurrent in cinema and that calls for decay, darkness, and while this lack of true gloom does not mean that the final act of the film is less disturbing, it does leave to desire for a truly atmospheric experience. 

Rest assured: The Girl with the Needle is far from a bad film. In fact, in Magnus von Horn's filmography, it is definitely his best film, and proof of his skills. Nonetheless, somewhere in its shadows lurks a film that could have been even better.


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