Film Review: 'The Danish Girl'
Opened: 25 December 2015 (UK)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch
Director: Tom Hooper
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anne Harrison, Tom Hooper, Gail Mutrux
After waiting over a decade for production on the screenplay of this pseudo-biographical film, The Danish Girl delicately positioned itself at the tail end of last year, just a week after the box office smash Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in cinemas. This beautiful and emotional piece is set in mid-1920s Copenhagen, recounting the story of the first person ever recorded to undergo gender reassignment surgery, a story which unfortunately does not have a happy ending. The Danish Girl is a far cry from present day, which can see a high profile Olympic sportsman transform himself through successful surgery and emerge into modern society right onto the cover of Vogue magazine like an unveiled butterfly, to become one of the most famous transgendered women in the world. This film is a stark contrast to what the same year has seen for transgendered people like Caitlyn Jenner.
Hot on the heels of his Oscar success for the portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne pushes his limits as an actor once again by playing the androgynous character role of the popular landscape artist Einar Wegener, who finds himself battling his very identity and sexuality. Despite having a seemingly happy and loving marriage to Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander of Ex-Machina fame), Einar is faced with a personal struggle when he is innocently called upon by his wife, a struggling portrait artist in her own right, to stand in as a female life model in order to complete and show her work to the curator of a potential gallery. His over shadowing success means that his wife is desperate to be appreciated in her own right as an artist therefore he agrees to help in her time of need.
This one 'harmless' act alone seems to ignite the flame to his personality confusion and life-long inner conflict, which (unbeknown to her) is being encouraged somewhat by his wife. What starts as playful and amusing entertainment between the pair, rapidly becomes a harsh reality that encapsulates them both as alter-ego Lili Elbe steps to the forefront of Einar's consciousness and demands her place. As Einar battles between being the loving, dutiful husband to Gerda and the curiously mysterious Lili who is still finding her way in the world, it becomes clear that there is no going back from this emotional journey they are all on.
Although Redmayne portrays both Einar and Lili with such grace and emotion, it is Vikander as Gerda who seems to really shine throughout this movie. Her incredible performance as the supportive wife and friend, shows the power of her love and strength of female character, which she portrays with such conviction. The title might even make the audience question which 'Danish Girl' is actually being referred to, since Gerda herself is faced with a personal struggle and inner conflict. This is especially apparent the more interaction she has with Lili, as the remnants of her husband Einar slowly slip away for good.
The more instances where Gerda discovers Lili in her home, sashaying around town, or even climbing into her bed, it soon becomes clear that she is here to stay, and the movie gives equal weight to both individual's coming to terms with the implications of this. Redmayne goes through a lot more apparent soul-searching with every twist of hand and the delicate inclination of his head as Lili tries to replicate the physicality of women and how they do things. Art imitating life or life imitating art, Lili finds herself researching in any way possible. Gerda channels this pure emotion into her work which in suddenly in demand due to her muse.
The movie drives on through these personal struggles and delves more into the physical battle. The attempt by society to understand this change in Einar's behaviour means he is often quick to be dismissed as the victim of a mental disorder or particularly schizophrenia, leaving the couple with very little options besides the threat of incarceration. This gives rise to the pair being referred to Dr Warnekros, whom is still in experimental stages of gender reassignment procedures, which seems to be the last beacon of hope for Einar to be who he truly is inside.
The Danish Girl is bursting with emotion, not only from the actors performances but through the delicate colours found in its costumes and tender soundtrack. The expression of art imitating life imitating art runs through the backbone of this film as Lili is captivated by her image in both mirrors and on canvas.
The cinematic journey holds a mirror up to the audience and makes them really think about how they would treat such a delicate yet unfortunate set of circumstances, which results in a mixture of emotions. There was not a dry eye in the house as the credits rolled since this touched everyone on a human level, where being your true self can sometimes be a constant battle, not just for the acceptance of society, but for that of yourself.