The Danish Girl (2015)

Cast includes: Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Amber Heard (Zombieland), Ben Wishhaw (Skyfall), Sebastian Koch (A Good Day to Die Hard), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop)
Director: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Damned United)
Genre: Drama | Romance | Biography (120 minutes) Based on a novel by David Evershoff

Huffington Post

“You must be so proud of him.” At the 1926 exhibition of Einar Wegener’s work, his wife Gerda is amused when she hears, “He may not be the best landscape artists in all of Denmark, but he in the top one!” Einar and Gerda are both painters… she does portraits… living in a large waterfront studio in Copenhagen. At Einar’s insistence, Gerda takes some of her work to show Mr. Rasmussin, but he coldly dismisses it. “This kind of work is not really…” He’s at a loss for words. “You could be a first class painter if you found the right subject matter.” Gerda is crushed. Back home, she’s been working on a painting of Ulla, a ballerina at the theater where Einar supervises sets. “She’s cancelled again” and Gerda is under pressure to finish. “Would you mind putting on the shoes and stockings and posing for me?” It would be an odd request, except that Einar actually has a rather delicate frame and unusual grace for a man. As he runs his hands over the satiny fabric, the feeling is surprisingly thrilling. No sooner has he taken the pose, does Ulla arrive. She is so amused that she declares, “We’re going to call you Lili.”

At a dinner party, Einer tells how Gerda originally enticed him by shamelessly flaunting her ankles. In the 1920s, bohemian ideas were taking hold, and Gerda has always loved shocking people. “They just pretend to be shocked because they like it.” Unable to sleep, Gerda amuses herself by sketching Einer while he sleeps. “I’ve been wondering when you got so pretty.” In fact, Gerda soon begins a new series of paintings featuring Lili, and the reception is very positive. When Einer doesn’t want to go to the Copenhagen artist’s ball, Gerda has an idea… “Why not go as someone else? [She’s thinking of Lili.] “You’d be very convincing, and you might even enjoy it.” With access to costumes from the ballet theater, Einer can choose the perfect outfit. Gerda enjoys giving lessons on walking, dressing and wearing make up. And surprisingly, Einer is quite good at everything. Going to the ball as Einer’s cousin Lili, she wonders, “Am I pretty enough?” It turns out that she is… in fact, pretty enough to attract Henrik’s advances… and prove quite shocking to Gerda.

At home, Gerda doesn’t know what to make of what happened. “There was a moment when I wasn’t Einer. I was just Lili.” In that era, there was no understanding of what Einer was feeling. Although the film is highly romanticized, the story is based on actual events in the life of Gerda and Einer Wegener (aka Lili Elbe). Eddie Redmayne once again gives a remarkable performance in a very difficult role. Alicia Vikander as Gerda is also excellent. Of course, the actual events would have been far grittier than they’re portrayed in this film, but the filmmakers weren’t trying to give us a raw, realistic emotional journey. The Danish Girl is an absolutely gorgeous film, with exceptional period costumes and sets. It shows us a time and place with changing social norms… but not changing fast enough on issues like these. Doctors were at a loss. Was he a pervert? Insane? Homosexual? Was it a chemical imbalance? Could anything be done? Lili only knew that she was meant to be a woman… even her dreams were “Lili’s dreams.”

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

The (romanticized) journey of husband and painter, Einer Wegener… becoming the first known transsexual woman

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R (Nudity, Sexual Content)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Mainstream Limited Release
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: Transgender pioneer
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking

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