Cannes: The Swedish director of The Here After tells us of his first genre drama/thriller and period piece, set to start filming this September in Poland for Nordisk Film’s Creative Alliance label.

After his calling card debut The Here After which screened at the 2015 Directors’ Fortnight and the 2020 Cannes labelled and festival hit Sweat, Magnus von Horn is breaking new ground and teaming up with some of Denmark’s biggest actors: Trine Dyrholm (Queen of Hearts, Margrete Queen of the North) and Vic Carmen Sonne (Holiday, Godland) who collaborated previously on Psychosia (2019).

Co-written by von Horn and Line Langebek, The Little Seamstress is very loosely based on the case of one of Denmark’s most notorious serial killers - Dagmar Overbye, a child-carer who murdered numerous babies between 1913-1920.

In von Horn and Langebek’s fiction version, the story set in 1918, moves away from Dagmar Overbye and centres on Karoline (Vic Carmen Sonne), a young factory worker, apparently widowed, who gets knocked up by the son of the factory’s owner. Karoline loses her job and her merciless lover, when her husband who was on the war front, suddenly reappears, although disfigured and suffering from PTSD. After a failed attempted abortion, Karoline meets Dagmar Overby (Trine Dyrhom), a candy shop owner, who offers a solution: an arranged adoption. But Dagmar’s real motives turn out to be much more sinister.

Von Horn says producer Malene Blenkov put him and Langebek together four years ago
Since then, both have worked intensely to write a heightened crime thriller with moralistic fairy-tale elements - the poor and innocent girl, manipulated by a ‘witch’-like evil woman.

For the Swedish director, trained at the prestigious Polish Lotz Film School, the use of genre thriller/horror conventions is also allowing him to “take this dark period piece, and place it at a safe distance from the audience”, to make the film engaging and entertaining. And the universal double-layered themes of unwanted parenthood and narrow line between good and evil, will make them relatable to today’s audiences, says von Horn.

Visually, the film will be filmed in black & white by the experienced Michal Dymek (Eo, Sweat), with a mix of location and studio shoots, mostly in Poland but also in Film i Väst’s Västra Götaland region, starting this September. “Our biggest visual references are black & white photos of European industrial cities from the 1920s, depicting harsh realities. But through the genre prism, the film will move away from a historical document to capture a beautiful, eerie and raw fictitious world,” von Horn tells us.

Regarding the main cast, the director says Trine Dyrholm and Vic Carmen Sonne are “simply the best for this film”. “Vic was cast during pre-production, about a year and a half ago. She has been tremendously valuable as a creative partner, and Trine is just a huge actress, with a true fearlessness.”

The film is being produced by Malene Blenkov, partner of Lone Sherfig and Ole Christian Madsen in Nordisk Film’s production label Creative Alliance.

So far, co-financiers include Film i Väst DR, the Danish Film Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, the Polish Film Institute and Nordisk Film & TV Fond.

Nordisk Film which handles Nordic rights will release the film sometime in 2024.