One of the most talked about films in this year’s Award Season is Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, based on the life of Lile Elbe or Einar Wegener, the first transgender woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery, and her devoted wife, Gerda Wegener.
Eddie Redmayne inevitably nails the role of Lile, he is so convincing as a woman and so invested in this character, you soon forget that Lile was ever Einar. As for whether he will get the Oscar for the second time in a row, I feel Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking is such a hard act to follow and, with the competition being so high this year, his Lile may not quite make the mark. However, despite Redmayne’s outstanding performance, Alicia Vikander as Gerda undoubtedly steals the show. The subtle emotional changes she can convey with just a flicker of her eyes are astounding. Her ability to convey to the audience Gerda’s inner pain whilst putting on an external front of support for Lile, is a quality that surpasses her fellow actresses and almost secures her win of Best Supporting Actress.
However, although Redmayne’s performance is outstanding, Alicia Vikander as Gerda undoubtedly steals the show.
Visually, the film is stunning. The camerawork draws in on all the intricacies of the dress fabrics as Redmayne’s trembling fingertip traces their outlines, showing Lile’s desperation for dress and body to become one. This cinematography means you become so absorbed in the intensity of this relationship that you have no desire for the film to end. You never want to leave Lile and Gerda. And this, for me, is the film’s greatest success. Vikander and Redmayne’s achievement of portraying such a convincing relationship on screen creates a surge of desperation from the audience for the characters to achieve their own happiness, even if it means the destruction of this beautiful marriage they made us fall in love with.
This cinematography means you become so absorbed in the intensity of this relationship you have no desire for the film to end. You never want to leave Lile and Gerda.
In a year full of increased global awareness of transgender issues, with figures such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox at the forefront of this movement, The Danish Girl, seems to be the perfect end to an incredibly important year. As a supporter of the transgender community, what struck me most about the story of Lile, was how Redmayne bought a whole new level of understanding to the inner torment felt by those struggling with gender identity. It opened my eyes wider to the horrendous agony of having to live in a body you don’t identify with. Redmayne managed to make every single one of us in the cinema feel Lile’s pain, her entrapment and her need to get out. This quality is, I feel, The Danish Girl’s greatest contribution to the transgender community: making everyone truly understand the inner torture experienced by members of this community on such an intimate level. And for this reason alone, if you are to watch only one of the films nominated in the Oscars, make sure it’s The Danish Girl.
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Nominations: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Production Design
Why You Should Watch It: For a beautifully crafted representation on a very current issue. To gain an insight into the reality of being transgender and to see two of the greatest performances of this generation’s actors and actresses; there is a reason for all the hype.
What It Was Missing: The build up to Lile’s transition is done so well and so delicately, that the ending cannot possibly match the same level of depth, meaning that it somewhat feels anticlimactic.
The Worldly Rating: ****