Film Review – The Danish Girl
The Danish Girl
Soon after Eddie Redmayne picked up a Best Actor Oscar for The Theory of Everything, an image of Redmayne dressed up as a woman was shared online. It was for his next project, The Danish Girl, and it pretty much became known then that this film would possibly be another Oscar nomination for him. Only after the trailer came out, did that thought really solidify. The Danish Girl became a must see for me, and it is a film that lives up to the award nomination hype, but not in the way you think it does.
The Danish Girl revolves around the true story and relationship of Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne). Both are artists living in Copenhagen in the 1920s. Einar is more successful and famous for his landscapes, while Gerda struggles to find her footing for her portrait work. It is only after asking Einar to help her finish a ballerina portrait that their lives change forever. While putting the stocking on for Gerda, something clicks in his mind and brings out suppressed feelings. The feelings are only increased when Gerda has him dress up as a girl for fun to attend an annual ball. It is then that Lili is born and her presence never goes away.
Going into the film, you assume The Danish Girl is in reference to Lili/Einar. It becomes evident that the film is much more about Gerda and her reaction to Lili entering her life. While many may argue that Eddie Redmayne deserves recognition for his honest, revealing portrayal of a transgender woman, it is Alicia Vikander who steals the film from Redmayne. She is positively transcendent and beautiful in this honest and brutal role of someone coming to terms with the fact that the life she thought she had will never be the same. It is her forgiving him and her for all the despair they have caused her. She realizes that it cannot be helped; it cannot be the same ever again. The raw emotion that is carried on Vikander’s face from the happy beginning to the tormented middle and finally to the accepting ending is one that should cement her as one of the best actresses of the year, right alongside Saoirse Ronan and Brie Larson.
It is not to say that Eddie Redmayne is chopped liver next to Vikander. He had to go to a very vulnerable place to play Lili. Lili takes risks that not many would have in that day and age. Redmayne shows the transition from a man firmly in a happy marriage to a woman wanting to fully be female in every possible way no matter the risk. Lili has to betray Gerda and go for what she believes in heart to be right. This is an emotional and physical part, and I don’t believe that Redmayne took any part of Lili’s story lightly.
The film would not have been as fantastic as it was without two supporting characters. Ben Winshaw plays Henrik, a man who fancies Lili on her first outing to the ball. He is very much smitten with her, even realizing that Lili is a man. It is through Lili’s experiences with Henrik that Lili is spurned to take her journey further. Matthias Schoenaerts has shown up in a handful of films this year and plays the role Hans Axgil in The Danish Girl. Hans is a man from Einar’s past as a child. He becomes a source of understanding and comfort to both Lili and Gerda even though he is this very masculine and large presence in every scene.
Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) has taken another biographical story and brought it onto the big screen in such a unique way. Along with Lucinda Coxon’s screenplay, The Danish Girl is a beautiful look at the loving relationship between Einar and Gerda that evolves through much turmoil and heartache to one between Gerda and Lili. The film is both one of sorrow and contentment. Go for Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal and end up being unexpectedly loving Alicia Vikander’s more.