Movie Review – The Danish Girl (2016)

Director: Tom Hooper

Stars: Eddie Redmayne Alice Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch

It’s 1926 in Denmark. Portrait artist Gerda Wegener (Vikander) painted her own husband, Einer (Redmayne) wearing women’s clothing. This opens a door to a new beginning for Einer, who starts to let a burning personality called Lily erupt from within. After an initial struggle, she tries to find a way to fix the fact that she was born in the wrong body.

Okay, so first of all I have to talk about the fact that this movie, while based on actual people and events, strips away all that actually happened to the point where the characters in this film are entirely fictional. It’s a shame because Einer’s struggle and search for gender-reassignment surgery is an important milestone and surely and interesting story in its own right, and I’m well aware that often movies change details but there comes a point where you change too much.

But I enjoyed the movie and I’m almost surprised that Redmayne is getting most of the plaudits because it’s as much  Vikander’s film as it is his, perhaps even more so. I liked how she was depicted as being supportive of Einer and trying to help him, while still struggling with the fact that she was losing her husband to Lily. In fact both performers showed the internal struggles of their characters well, and they had good chemistry which made me invested in their relationship. There were so many small touches early on,  like when Einer showed secret satisfaction in touching a dress, that showed how good Redmayne is at magnifying subtle emotional reactions. The anguish and pain were prevalent but so was the joy in when he was finally able to express himself as Lily (at this point I would like to apologise if I mess up any of the pronouns).

Hooper’s direction is…elegant. The sex scenes were erotic and tender, and showed a delicate intensity. Perhaps the most powerful of these is when Einer goes to a bordello and as he looks through a window at the girl inside they begin to mirror each others’ gestures. This direction and the visual beauty of the movie is excellent.

The film does have a major flaw though, and while I think Redmayne did a fantastic job, I do feel that the transition from Einer being Einer and Einer wanting to be Lily was a little mishandled and felt rushed. For a large part of the film it seems as though being a woman is largely about wearing pretty dresses and flirting with men, and I would have appreciated a bit of a deeper look into her personality and her femininity. But I think the balance of Gerda does help in that regard, and really Vikander was the most impressive part of the film.

So while it has its flaws, the biggest being possibly a disrespect to the actual subject of the film by adapting a version of their life instead of the actual events. But despite that, taken as it is. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think that Redmayne is going to get the Oscar this year, because even in his own film I feel that Vikander is the better performer.

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