Friday, December 11, 2015


In 2010, with his Oscar-winning THE KING’S SPEECH, director Tom Hooper took an obscure and nearly forgotten-about moment in history and turned it into a very human story which felt epic. With his newest, THE DANISH GIRL, Hooper returns to that time period to tell another story which has fallen to a victim of the past; the story of the world’s first transgendered woman.

Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are two artists living in London in the 1920’s, with Einar the successful landscape artist and Gerda as the struggling portrait painter. When Einar poses in a dress for Gerda for a new series of paintings, nicknamed Lili, he awakens something in himself which begins his journey to becoming a woman.

There is a theory in filmmaking, and in storytelling in general, that there is only one plot that all stories have: Who Am I. THE DANISH GIRL is very much that, as it follows Einar’s painful struggle to find his true self. The film follows the happily married couple, who are very much in love; through the steps of what is at first a playful game which turns into Einar adapting the persona of Lili in full. Their marriage is put to the test, and things are compounded when the Lili portraits become their only true source of income, and Gerta’s only long-awaited reward of being recognized as an artist.

On the surface, THE DANISH GIRL feels like it would be just a step-by-step journey of a man becoming a woman…steps that include the harsh treatments by an un-educated medical community, the common bully on the street, and right up to and past the very scary surgical procedures (the first of its kind at the time). But director Tom Hooper, not content with the heroine’s journey alone, turns the film on its end as a true love story. This is a journey that Gerda and Lili take together, and Gerda’s storyline of a woman who must watch her husband disappear before her eyes, practically a living wake, gives the film a tremendous heartbeat. What it means to have loved and lost is a theme that Hooper explores in full and makes THE DANISH GIRL a very deep and complex story.

Hooper’s excellent talent for framing a shot is on full display. His screen is exquisitely filled with faces and objects which aid him in telling his story, and there is not one wasted shot in the entire film. His gentle and loving touch handles matters which could have been crude and insensitive in the most tasteful of ways. Alexandre Desplat’s score is magnificent. The makeup job on Eddie Redmayne to turn him into a woman on film is stunning, and there isn’t much disbelief to be had when looking at his character.

Eddie Redmayne puts in the performance of a lifetime as Lili. There is a wealth of emotions that the character must endure, and Redmayne nails every one of them. There is an amazing level of depth at work, as the actor is playing the part of a man trying to be a woman and he is always convincing. As good as he is, Alicia Vikander matches him perfectly. She too must go through a lot, and her performance is by the far the best of her young career. The supporting cast of Ben Whishaw, Amber Heard, and Matthias Schoenaerts are all excellent.

Considering the subject-matter, THE DANISH GIRL is certainly not a film for anyone with a frat-boy mentality or with the dismissive and barbaric notion that all transgendered people are insane. The film does have its awkward moments, but those brave enough to look past it will easily find one of the most exquisite films of 2015.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.