The Danish Girl

500 Days Of Film Reviews The Danish Girl And Finds An Important And Moving Story About A Transgender Pioneer

 

The Danish Girl is a love story.

 

Dutch artists Einar Elbe and Gerda Wegener have been married for six years when they both realise that Einar is a woman, Lili, trapped inside the body of a man.

 

The couple go on a remarkable, emotional journey as Lili examines her transgender identity and seeks to become one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery. 

Is It Any Good?

There is no doubt that The Danish Girl is a good film. This is an important story and it has certainly come at a crucial point in transgender history.

 

However, I have a couple of issues with this film that have prevented it from being (for me) a truly great movie.

 

First, the good stuff.

 

Alicia Vikander is superb. I loved and cared about Gerda - she lit up the screen. Indeed, for me, Gerda’s journey felt far more engaging even than Lili’s. This has much to do with Vikander’s outstanding and moving performance.

 

I also liked the way The Danish Girl explains just how difficult it was to be a transgender woman (or man) in the 1920s. Lili’s visits to a range of doctors - and their various conclusions and suggested treatments - were terrifying. 

 

This is such recent history and I was left feeling thankful that we have come a long way since.

 

 

Eddie Redmayne is powerful as Lili. His performance is impressive - definitely Bafta/Oscar bait.

 

During The Danish Girl, I felt the great care that he had obviously taken in the development of this role (like with his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything). He is extremely convincing as a transgender woman.

 

However, there were times when I felt that Redmayne’s performance - his facial expressions and hand movements - got in the way of the powerful emotion of Lili’s story. These mannerisms began to feel somewhat affected and repetitive. 

 

Unfortunately, this stopped me from engaging with Lili on a deep emotional level. In short, I didn’t cry once and that was surprising given the heartbreaking subject matter.

 

I also felt that The Danish Girl was too slow. I get that director, Tom Hooper, wanted us to understand Einar and Gerda’s relationship and artistic careers before introducing Lili. However, for me the film needed much more pace.

 

In addition, I couldn’t help but think that The Danish Girl’s version of Lili and Gerda’s story was too sanitized and contrived.

 

I understand that one film cannot hope to encompass all of the complexities of life (see Random Observations). I understand that this is a story only ‘inspired’ by real events. However, everything felt a little too easy and far too restrained. 

 

By these reservations I do not mean to imply that I didn’t enjoy The Danish Girl. I did and am pleased to have seen it at the cinema. Despite its flaws, this is an impressive film and it tells a remarkable and important story.  

 

Random Observations

If you liked Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl be sure to check out some of her other performances. I would particularly recommend Ex Machina, A Royal Affair and The Testament Of Youth.  

 

It is often a mistake to Google the names of people that you have just watched a film about. However, I never learn. It, of course, turns out that the life of Lili and Gerda was much more complicated than that suggested by The Danish Girl. However, importantly, if you view this film as a love story (in that Gerda supported Lili in her transition and loved her throughout) the film is well supported by the facts.  

 

I would have liked to see more of Ben Whishaw in this movie. He plays a character called Henrik. His role is to give Lili confidence in her attractiveness as a woman and, importantly, to make the key distinction between a transgender woman and a homosexual man.

 

Have you seen The Danish Girl? What did you think about this film? Do you agree with me? Either way, I would love to know - do leave me a comment in the box below!

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