Two outstanding performances makes this intriguing little drama one to watch.
A fictitious love story inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
I never expected The Danish Girl to be my cup of tea. The content at first glance didn’t really appeal to me BUT what did was the cast. I couldn’t pick a more perfect combination. Redmayne and Vikander were brilliant. They had fantastic chemistry and made an endearing couple. You really did care for them. We join the married couple of six years in 1920s Copenhagen. Happy and in love.
The slow burning pace allowed the transformation to happen more naturally. We follow Vikander’s Gerda as she struggles to make a career as a painter. Desperate to break free from the shadow of her renowned husband.
A simple problem with a model being late and a quick pose for a portrait and we slowly unearth something in the bashful and timid Einar Wegener. The dresses. The heels. The stockings. Appealing to a deeper part of him. Embraced as a little joke; the pair take it a step further. Desperate NOT to be seen at a party function, Einar creates the alter ego Lili.
The film chugged along at an easygoing pace as the pair messed around with the dresses and wigs. BUT while Gerda saw it as a little bit of fun, we notice a change in Einar. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and writer Lucinda Coxon got the perfect balance. A chance encounter with Ben Whishaw’s (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) Henrik and Redmayne’s Lili could easily have played out like something out of Some Like It Hot.
BUT it wasn’t long before Lili overstayed her welcome. Redmayne proved once again why he deserved that Oscar gold last year. An excellent performance. The ego of Lili awoke something that had always been inside of Einar. It was an interesting insight into the transgender psyche. Einar’s treatment and transformation was something else.
His treatment in the 20s was baffling. I should have seen it coming BUT it still made for engaging viewing. Desperate to seek help for Gerda’s sake and to find answers, Einar faces charges of perversion, homosexuality and even has to evade capture from being committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed a schizophrenic. The man even took radiation therapy to correct the “chemical imbalance”.
As much as you could feel for Einar’s inner turmoil and tried to understand what he was going through, you also felt for Gerda who faced losing the very person she fell in love with. Vikander was superb. A performance worthy of that BAFTA nod.
I wish more was made out of the supporting cast. Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd) did well with the small supporting role of Einar’s boyhood chum and even Amber Heard (The Rum Diary) managed to make a memorable impression in her frightfully miniscule role/cameo as Gerda’s friend Ulla. Regular Hooper stalwart Danny Cohen’s cinematography delivered yet again. Bringing life and colour to a rather dull looking Denmark.
However, it wasn’t all perfect. For all the drama, I was left wanting. The pace did test as the film passed the 90 minute marker. Two hours was too much. As the film drew to a close and Einar considered surgery, things picked up. BUT it seemed to rush after such a long build up and end a little too abruptly for my liking.
Despite a lumbering pace, two sterling turns helped make this engaging examination one to watch.