The Danish Girl
Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw
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…fascinating and deeply touching …
Nearly a century before Caitlyn Jenner was heralded a modern transgender icon, Danish painter, Einar Wegener, became an accidental activist in gender-reassignment surgery, as the first person to undergo the operation. A cynic may see the telling of Einar’s story now as an attempt to cash in on the current cultural zeitgeist, but it quickly becomes clear that this film has its heart in the right place.
After earning an Oscar for his turn as Stephen Hawking, Eddie Redmayne once again proves his immense talent for transformation in essaying Einar, and also Lili Elbe, the woman who gradually emerges throughout the film. Our first glimpse of Lili is when Einar’s beloved wife and fellow painter, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), asks her husband to pose for her in stockings and heels, and it clearly stirs something in him. At first, Gerda encourages Einar’s feminine side, even going so far as to instigate a girl’s night out on the town with “Lili.” Gerda, however, soon comes to realise that this is far more than a game to her husband, and Lili is here to stay.
As one would expect from the Oscar winning director behind The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, Tom Hooper transforms this story into the most gorgeous and accessible film that you could make given the subject. While he may skim over the grittier details, the filmmaker doesn’t skim over the nuance, and there’s so much to absorb here. Redmayne is sure to score another Oscar nomination for his undeniably fantastic lead turn(s), but Vikander shines just as brightly as Gerda. Arguably the film’s most intriguing character, Gerda is a rock to her husband even when her own world is crumbling. Theirs is one of the year’s most fascinating and deeply touching love stories.