The Danish Girl (2016)
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard
Plot: A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s ground-breaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
A tale based on a true story, The Danish Girl follows the physical and mental transformation of Einar Wegener (Redmayne) into the beautiful Lili and how his decisions affect his marriage with his ever-loving wife, Gerda (Vikander). Director Tom Hooper (Les Misérables – 2012; The King’s Speech – 2010) truly captures the intense and sometimes deeply sexual moments from the start of the character’s evolution all the way through to the end. Although it is a story portraying a very serious and relevant topic, there is a certain amount of “joie de vivre” in Lili’s blossoming from a shy young woman into a lady who is as happy as she is with who she is.
As an audience, you are immediately drawn into a world of bliss – a marriage filled with pure happiness and joy, where both members are comfortable with one another to the point where Einar is asked to model a dress and shoes so that Gerda can finish her painting. It is through this event early on in the film that we get a glimpse of Einar’s fantasies; he caresses the lace, paying no attention to his surroundings as his breath quickens. Although he is pulled away from his moment by the entrance of his sister, who laughs and names him ‘Lili’, we already know that this is only the beginning of this characters development.
What starts off as a joke between Einar and his wife to dress and observe women in order to become one, quickly spirals out of control for Gerda as she realises that Lili was not a one-time occurrence. Einar’s first appearance as Lili takes place at a formal evening event which he attends with his wife, pretending to be Einar’s cousin. The music portrays the light-hearted attitude of both Lili and Gerda as, on occasion, they are caught by the women they are copying. The soft and slow music at the event contrasts to Lili’s feeling as she begins to panic and no longer finds it as comical as she did before. However, Lili meets a man who makes her feel more relaxed and she is later kissed by him only to be interrupted by Gerda who is understandably shocked by what she sees.
The emotions felt throughout the film make you unsure of what to think or who to sympathise with. Although you sympathise with Lili’s inability to no longer separate her life from Einar’s and her quest to fully transform herself into a woman, it is hard not to pity Gerda and her battle to understand and accept Lili’s decisions. Gerda is caught in the middle between wanting her husband back and also wanting Einar to be who he really is. Alicia Vikander’s performance as Gerda was excellent. Her struggle to accept such a drastic change to her life and her resolution to help Lili until the end is heart-breaking. It is clear to the audience that she puts her life on hold and loves Lili – regardless of the fact that she is no longer the man she married.
Eddie Redmayne (who I secretly love) is the perfect choice for the lead role. Managing to look both masculine as Einar and feminine as Lili, even in his actions and his way of speaking, the British actor really captures the transformation brilliantly. It is almost as though we really do see the transformation, and not just a film adaptation of a real life situation which took place in 1926. Although Redmayne does not really say all too much throughout the film, his actions speak louder than those words ever could. By the end, you are positive he leaves the world content as he is then able to leave as a woman.
Overall, it was a film which educated yet captured the audience, making you feel upset and happy for Lili at the same time, having seen her be able to achieve her life-long dream. However, I feel that The Danish Girl dragged in some instances where nothing of significance seemed to happen and did not really enhance the story in any way. One could argue that this was done to portray how every day was, and that the film aimed to tell a personal story and not just display the most significant events; how everyday crushed Gerda a little because her husband was no longer there; how Lili grew and ‘fought’ to be noticed more, replacing Einar. It is definitely a film worth seeing, as it truly captures the issues transgender individuals faced in the 1900’s – mental asylums, medical treatments and being shunned from society. For all of its importance as a factual story and its contemporary relevance, as well as its very good performances, The Danish Girl ranks…