The idea of being transgender is not a new one, but with all the sudden coverage in the news it can be hard to realise that. The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper, is a topical film not only because of its relevance to today’s society, but also because it highlights a gender-based struggle in an time we wouldn’t usually think about.
Set in 1926, popular artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is married to his less successful artistic wife, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). One day he finds himself having to model women’s clothing for her as her usual model is running late, and it’s from this moment forward that Einar truly starts to think about who he is. As a sort of joke he adopts the persona of Lili Elbe, although gradually this persona becomes entwined with his life and he realises that he is not Einar at all, but Lili.The films then depicts the complex array of struggles that come from Einar being transgender.
As we all know, Eddie Redmayne is fantastic at immersing himself in his characters, and The Danish Girl is no exception here. Watching him slowly transform from Einar to Lili is fascinating – most actors have their hands full with one character to deal with, but here Redmayne has too. I thought Alicia Vikander was the star of the show here though – she has this vibrancy about her that a lot of other actresses just don’t have. The supporting cast were great as well, making the whole film very believable. The camera work was absolutely beautiful – during the intro each shot seems like a painting, and this sublime cinematography carries on until the very end. There’s a certain delicacy to it, which emphasises Lili’s character well. Redmayne happens to have a very emotive face, and even the slightest of expressions gets his emotions through to the viewer.
The film is a very emotional ride, to say the least, and the clever writing coupled with the beautiful classical soundtrack created some very powerful scenes. It was hard not to become emotionally invested in both Lili’s and Gerda’s story, and there were certain parts where it almost felt real. What was really sad about it (apart from the obvious mental struggles and difficult relationships) was that it included a whole variety of different negative opinions that actually still echo today. Having grown up with transgender friends, I found it quite hard to endure the struggles that Lili faced, as it all just felt so unfair. Luckily it wasn’t all drama and depression though – there were plenty of surprisingly fun scenes (particularly during the first half) that I wasn’t expecting to see.
Although loosely based on a true story, it’s important to remember that The Danish Girl is based on the book of the same name, rather than the actual story of Einar Wegener. If you do your research you’ll find that the two stories are actually very different, although Hooper’s stunning portrayal does not seem to make the experience any less meaningful. There’s a fair bit of artistic licence to be seen (mountains in Denmark, you say?), but it really is cleverly done, and deals with a potentially sensitive subject in a very poignant way.
I personally felt that the film did justice to the transgender community – it didn’t feel twisted or trivialised as some topical films come across and there was no dehumanisation. Instead, it just demonstrated a beautiful story that I’m sure many can relate to, and I’m glad that it’s out there for all to see and understand.
I give The Danish Girl a 5/5.
The Danish Girl at CeX
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