The Danish Girl

by | Nov 26, 2015 | 0 comments

A Masterclass in Acting and One of the Best Films of the Year

Entertainment was made in order to take people out of the world they are living in, and go to an entirely different one. This goes back to the bread and circuses of the Roman Empire and all the way to today, where entertainment has been industrialized. The film world is a great source of entertainment, starting with the silent pictures of the beginning of the 20th century and leading up to the blockbusters of today. Sadly the immersion into different worlds has become ever so rare; with so much analyzing and celebrities it’s hard to just experience something. However, every now and then we are given a hidden jewel.

The Danish Girl is a period piece that might seem like boring activism propaganda, but it really is a beautiful story of a relationship between two people, well three really. The story takes place in Copenhagen in 1926, and it tells the story of a respected but shy painter: Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his lively wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) who is also an aspiring painter. The couple live happily together, however, one day when the model taht Gerda has been painting, ballet dancer Ulla (Amber Heard), is absent she asks her husband to stand in. Einar briefly puts on tights and heels, and there is a strange moment of curiosity and awakening. Giggly and amused, Gerda decides to make this a running a joke. She has Einar go to Ulla’s ball dressed as a woman and going by the name of Lili. There is a fun montage of practice, as Gerda teaches Einar how to act like a girl, but at the ball Einar is courted and kissed by a Danish gentleman by the name of Henrik (Ben Wishaw). Gerda is furious and prods Einar for an explanation, but Einar’s only response is that he became Lili. The story progresses to tell the fate of the three characters: Einar, Gerda, and… Lili.

Certainly the most vivid aspect of the whole film is the stellar acting. Redmayne is hot from his Oscar win for The Theory of Everything this same year, and his role here as Lili and Einar is bound to option him for another. He is very subtle with the transition, given us little hints and details of feminine gestures like waking up with his arms covering his breasts, or caressing his face and feeling dresses with delicacy. He fully makes us believe that at a one point in the film there are two people inside of him, and both characters are so rich and so different. He has surpassed the extremely high bar he had already set by portraying Stephen Hawking. And we also have Alicia Vikander. I don’t want to brag, but since her appearance in Ex Machina earlier this year I said that Vikander was going to be the “actress of the year,” she has since appeared in many films this year including Ex Machina, Seventh Son, Testament of Youth, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Burnt apart from The Danish Girl. She has not only broken out and into Hollywood as a star, but she is proving to be a great actress as well. I think that, finally, The Danish Girl will be enough for the rest of the critics and audiences to accept her true quality. As Gerda, she not only proves to be emotionally moving through the difficult transition of seeing her husband go, but she also fills the screen with such power and presence that at some points she even outshines Redmayne. The supporting cast is strong as well, but director Tom Hooper is smart and lets the two main actors shine and captivate.

The story is an extremely inspiring one, it was adapted ravishingly by Lucinda Coxon from the novel of the same name, which in and of itself is greatly influenced by the true story of the first known biologically transgender woman. The story maintains a literary symbolism with curious elements that, when noticed, will make you chuckle. The script also has a wittiness, but it is not so prominent that it takes you out of the characters’ journey. And speaking of the journey, I was delighted that this was the primary focus of the film: the journey of two people trying to figure out whom they are. Like Carol, it subtly carries a political message to the audience, specifically by not focusing on that message.

I’ve liked director Tom Hooper’s previous films, which include Elizabeth I, The King’s Speech, and Les Miserables (also with Redmayne). He is able to find a balance between an anecdotal story and an epic, so that the story being told seems important enough to be told, but not bloated enough or overrated. It’s his expert hand that makes us forget of the technical aspects of the film, and has us simply enjoy a movie.

But we mustn’t ignore the technicalities either. The Danish Girl is such a complete film in all its facets. This might be the secret to why it is so immersive; from the beautiful cinematography of the Danish landscapes, to the physical transition of Redmayne, and especially Alexandre Desplat’s gracious score, the great balance allows for nothing to stand out and distract.

The Danish Girl is not only an example of how a film should be made, but it is also an example of why we watch. It certainly is the best picture I’ve seen this year so far and it would be a shame if anyone missed out in this journey.

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 90% 90%

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Performances

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Romance

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Historical Accuracy

What Film Best Represents Transgender Characters? Let me know in the comments section.

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