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The Danish Girl – Joint Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 25 December 2015 [USA]
 
Director: Tom Hooper
 
Writer: David Ebershoff [Novel] - Lucinda Coxon [Screenplay]
 
Cast: Eddie Redmayne - Alicia Vikander - Amber Heard
 


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Posted January 4, 2016 by

 
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The Danish Girl – Joint Review

Michael’s Perspective:

Einar and Gerda Wegener are a pair of married artists, living a spirited life in 1920’s Copenhagen. While filling in for an absentee model, Einar helps Gerda with her portrait by wearing the model’s dress. It stirs something in Einar that he has felt since he was a child. Through sexual experimentation and daring practical jokes, Einar begins dressing and soon behaving as Lili, a female alter-ego. The jokes fast subside as Lili begins to insistently pursue this new identity, one she feels has been true from the beginning.

Redmayne is breathtaking as Einar and Lili. Often she tries to express herself, only to pull back shivering with nervousness. With every step Lili takes towards realisation, her clothing, her movements, her body, the fear and excitement is tangible. An apprehensive meet with a male admirer that ends in misunderstanding is indicative of what Lili feels. During moments other characters think of as roleplay, Lili revels in freedom she’s only begun to experience. As her confidence grows, so does her beauty.

Might Redmayne be the next actor to join the very small group of back-to-back Oscar winners? If so, Leo’s going to be fucking pissed.

Alicia Vikander has bracketed 2015 with two incredible performances, the former being Ex Machina’s Ava. Here, she is neck and neck with Redmayne. She appears at times wracked with guilt, having playfully indulged in Einar’s crossdressing in the past. She wonders if this is all her doing. How burdensome and confusing it must have been for Gerda, crying out for a husband’s support, asking for it from someone who could no longer provide it. While Lili comes to life, a huge portion of Gerda’s perishes in a way difficult for her to fathom. And yet, she supports her partner through this time, life changing for both of them and all the more bizarre whilst set in this early 20th century period.

The reactions to Lili’s emergence and development range from warmth and thrilled fascination to ignorance, stupidity and violence. One doctor tells Lili that “he” is homosexual while another wastes no time in labelling Lili a schizophrenic and fetching the orderlies. To combat this frustration comes a most beautiful well wish from Lili’s old friend Hans,

“I have only liked a few people in my life and you have been two of them.”

Director Tom Hooper and DP Danny Cohen deliver what has come to be expected after The King’s Speech and Les Misérables. Lili and Gerda’s Copenhagen home has its solemn, Scandinavian colours while their Parisian apartment is considerably darker and baroque in comparison. Hooper’s stamped off-centre framing allows his rooms and beautifully dressed crowds to be appreciated. There are few locations to become familiar with, further complementing Lili’s want for belonging.

The Danish Girl, and Lili herself, is a very slowly blooming rose but one that will stagger you with its power. It is a display of the human soul, present in everyone despite the chaos on the surface.

Written by:

10990897_947809968572240_8068008592644517359_n

Michael Keyes
Silences Band
@mkjk1990
Full Contributor

 

Sedef’s Perceptive:

The Danish Girl is without a doubt a very important film. Its technical merits are manifold and its leading actors deliver quite stunning performances and all these points will be discussed below at length. But what makes The Danish Girl such an important film is its subject matter. In mainstream cinema, where realistic transgender characters are sadly present with their absence, the story of Lili Elbe is one that needs to be told. Lili was a trailblazer and remains a symbol of courage for all transgender people today. And the most important thing The Danish Girl does may well be to bring Lili into the mainstream and show us that her spirit and determination can in fact be an inspiration for all of us.

Lili was born as Einar Wegner (Eddie Redmayne) and when our story begins, Einar is a successful painter in Denmark living with his beloved wife Gerda(Alicia Vikander). She is also a painter – albeit not as well-known as her husband – and the single thing marring their marriage is the lack of children. One day Gerda asks Einar to stand in for one of her models, a ballerina who is a family friend. The model has cancelled last minute and Greta needs Einar to just put on her shoes and stockings so she can continue working on the painting. This seemingly small incident awakens something in Einar. Or rather, it awakens someone. Einar begins more and more to identify as a woman named Lili. Gerda– who treats the whole thing like a game at first – very quickly realizes that in fact, both their lives have changed forever. The question now is how Lilli will survive in a society that is by no means ready to accept her…

The thing that stands out from the first moment in the film is the absolutely first class cinematography. Be it the ruggedly beautiful Danish landscapes, shots from Copenhagen itself or details of Lili’s dresses and costumes in the ballet where Einar used to work painting backdrops, the film is visually stunning and crafted pretty much like an elaborate moving painting. It is in the beautiful visual details that we find the first foreshadowing of Lili as Einar admires costumes and touches the furs as he walks around backstage in the ballet, clearly enjoying the colours and textures. But it is not until Einar actually has to wear women’s stockings and shoes that we begin to realise that there is more to his admiration than a painters’ sensitivity.

This is where we need to stop and talk about the performances in the film. The role of Lili is a complicated one. It is the story of a person who comes to realise who they truly are relatively later on in life, at a point where they thought that they had “it all” “sorted”. Now Lili must come to terms with who she is, and do it despite a society that is by no means ready to accept her. Eddie Redmayne does an absolutely first class job of portraying Einar, the painful period of transition and ultimately Lili with depth and emotion and fluidity. It is usual to see a character’s ark in a film, their development from its beginning to its end. But it is both rare and challenging for the performer for this to be complete strip down and recreation of the character both physically and emotionally. Redmayne’s candid portrayal of all these aspects is, without a doubt, the cornerstone that makes the film so special. On the other hand we have Alicia Vikander who is a wonderful counterpart to Redmayne as Gerda who has to cope with the effective death of the man she loves and that she now has to live with a woman called Lili who is heartbreakingly similar to her husband. Alongside this personal crisis, Gerda is also one of Lili’s only confidants and her sole supporter as doctor after doctor calls her (or rather Einar) mad and tries to lock her up. She is ultimately the person holding her hand as Lili goes into her first groundbreaking operation. Vikander, who had more recently drawn attention with her portrayal of and android in Ex Machina, portrays Gerda and her emotional turmoil with heartbreaking accuracy. And it is ultimately these two powerful portrayals that makes The Danish Girl such an emotional journey.

Thus, Tom Cooper (who won the Academy Award for Director in The Kings Speech, another very toucing biography) spares us nothing in showing how truly difficult Lili’s all too short journey through life was. It can only be hoped that a film so powerful starts some interesting discussions, not least the place of transgender actors in mainstream cinema. One thing is for sure though – with awards season looming, we will definitely hearing more from The Danish Girl in the weeks to come…

Written by:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 18.55.20

Sedef Hekimgil
@Essie_Tweets
Essie Speaks
Full Contributor

 

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