A Young Harsh Reality

KILLING GIRLS. Director: David Kinsella, Norway 2009.

Killing Girls

David Kinsella

Norway 2009.

We are in a Russian abortion clinic, a hospital where young girls lie on beds lined up one after the other. They all look sad. In the corner of the room – in this black- and-white documentary – there is an older woman speaking impatiently and harshly to a young girl about the abortion they are performing. Suddenly she draws out the dead or dying foetus – we see a wet black dripping body hanging in the air from her hand, about five metres from the camera – and puts it into a used plastic bag. When the girl starts crying, she is told that she is not the only one experiencing this. All the other girls lying on their iron beds in this hospital ward are, like us, witness to this tough situation. The older rough woman in her fifties leaves. She has done 10,000 abortions here in St. Petersburg over the past 25 years.

The director David Kinsella – behind the new documentary Killing Girls – told me this summer that he had a lot of shots worse than this one, but that he wouldn’t use them in the film.

The audio and visual experience is close to the feeling generated by Dvortsevoy’s extreme close-up of a sheep giving birth to a dying baby lamb in his fiction film Tulpan (2008), though he did not, as Kinsella did, shoot in black-and- white. Interestingly Kinsella uses a lot of fictional techniques in his documentaries to make them more visual. He has also chosen to work with an editor whose background is in fiction films. Yes, as you say David, there are too many filmmakers in the documentary field with a background in words – we agree on that.


As in Kinsella’s previous A Beautiful Tragedy (2008) we see scenes in slow motion with unfocused images, and we experience the use of music to arouse melancholic feelings. Too much? No, it makes the harshness of this Russian reality shine through.

The nightmarish impression of Killing Girls is not coincidental. Kinsella realised that he wanted the film to be a nightmare itself, when he observed a 15-year old girl giving birth to her dead seven month old child. That is why we see images slowing down and speeding up, and why he makes use of a thin plastic skin to blur the images. The characters also walk through passages, tunnel-like exits, and go through darkness approaching light.

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