<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sebastian Koch
Running Time: 2 hours
The Danish Girl was such a delight to watch. Such a beautiful way to depict transgender dynamics back in the old days. Eddie is superb!
No, this isn’t just a film about a man who likes dressing up in women’s clothing. The Danish Girl is about a woman trapped in a man’s body in a time when being homosexual or transgender were considered abnormal and worthy of the mental asylum.
Eddie Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, a successful landscape artist in the 1920s whose wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) has always supported him but now wants to fulfil her dream of being a great artist as well. As a favour, Einar puts on some stockings and poses for Gerda since her model isn’t available. This rekindles a childhood feeling in Einar towards his feminine side. At first, Gerda is actually understanding of Einar’s fancy for wearing her lingerie and even dresses him up as Lili to accompany her to a party – all in good fun. That is until Lili meets a man (Ben Whishaw) who takes a liking to her.
Gerda must now deal with the fact that Einar’s proclivity to dressing up as a girl is more than just a fetish; he is actually a woman trapped in a man’s body. As Einar slowly discovers his femininity by emulating women’s gestures and body movements, Gerda realises she is losing her husband. But she stands by him through it all.
Exquisite set design, cinematography, locations and costumes bring the period alive. But it is the sterling performances of Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander that make The Danish Girl such a stirringly beautiful film that touch you deeply. Tom Hooper’s deft direction is a pleasure to watch. Redmayne has shown his versatility and ability to transform into wondrous characters in films like The Theory of Everything. But what’s great about The Danish Girl is Vikander’s character. Without her, there would be little to balance the film. Gerda’s strength, even though emotionally torn, is inspirational.
What’s also a revelation about this true story is that there were people who understood that being transgender wasn’t a mental disease or insanity. Like Einar’s childhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts) who he had kissed when they were boys. And Amber Heard as Einar and Gerda’s mutual friend is also memorable.
The Danish Girl is so skilfully handled that you never feel uncomfortable or squeamish at the subject matter. Perhaps it was the period that imbued everything with a sense of polish and class. Perhaps it was to make the subject matter more palatable. This is a film that could only be depicted with such sophistication in British hands. Oscar bells may certainly toll for this one.