I was really looking forward to watching The Danish Girl, the theme is something I’m interested in, I love Eddie Redmayne and the posters looked beautiful. So i was made it all the more sad as the film progressed, the feeling of disappointment crept over me finally leaving a deposit of unfulfilled potential.
The plot begins with marital bliss between landscape artist Einar Wegener (Redmayne) and portrait artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). On the surface they are a loved up, successful young couple. One day when Gerda’s model fails to turn up to a sitting she asks Einar to be a substitute ballerina. After his inner feelings are aroused by the stockings and pumps of the ballerina, his journey to becoming Lili Elbe begins.
I just want to start of by saying the film is beautiful, its early 20th Century setting provides some astonishing set pieces and amazing dresses, even if everything seems to have a dull sepia tone to it (no doubt to make it look like you’re really in the 20s!). If you enjoy the 20s flapper art deco extravagance, you’ll be well sated.
That being said, I found the plot was rather long and meandering. I was never really sure where it was going or what exactly it was trying to say. This is trying to be an Oscar bait film, complete with a mildly saccharine undercurrent and a ham fisted attempt at a heartwarming and ‘life-changing’ storyline. Alas, I found there was little to be said in The Danish Girl. The 20s setting, whilst lavish and beautiful seems to serve as a way to portray the subject matter without really dealing with the issues that trans people deal with on a daily basis, it gets to skip dealing with the nitty gritty of a topical issue by setting it in the past, which makes it feel all the more irrelevant to modern day trans people.
..The film didn’t really do anything interesting with the subject matter, the real deep and intense feelings that can come with being transgendered never really came out. I never felt like I knew Lili, or her motivations, I found it hard to get behind her as a protagonist and as such I just didn’t care when the film reached its tragic conclusion.
Don’t get me wrong, the performance of Vikander as Gerda, Lili’s wife, was brilliant. She was able to tap into the character and give us a well rounded performance as someone who has internal conflicts and tries to do what is best for her husband, and herself. Lili remains almost like a child, selfish in her petty need for Gerda to stay with her despite the destruction of those around her.
Having since done a little research in the Lili Elbe, it’s no surprise that this film seems like such a mess, it appears to be a further fictionalisation of a fictionalised version of a real story. Lili Elbe was a real person, and as she was one of the first people to have gender reassignment surgery, her story should be one of hope and resilience, not petulance.This could have been great, this could have been the film that really gets people talking about transgender rights and help people to understand what being trans is. I wanted to like this film, I wanted this to be the mainstream film to deal with these issues in a mature way that doesn’t treat transexuality as a butt of a joke a figure of ridicule. Instead it’s just a rather dull story about a rather dull person not coming to terms with who they really are.
Despite being promising, having a great director (Tom Hooper, from The King’s Speech and Les Miserable fame), great cast, and interesting base story the film does not live up to the hype. Redmayne’s performance is flat and boring as Lili, leaving Vikander to do all the heavy acting, the plot is slow paced and a bit muddled and the accuracy of the story is also under question. The set and the costumes are amazing and beautiful (the only thing worthy of an Oscar), but it really is just a dull disappointment. If you want a film that deals with transexuality in a more updated and relevant setting I would recommend Boy Meets Girl which deals with the subject matter in a far more mature way. I do say all this as someone who is not transgendered, and my views do not reflect that of anyone but my own. Please leave a comment if you feel differently, I’m happy to have a discussion. (120 mins, rated 15)