The Danish Girl is a complex tale of love and identity. This film tells the story of landscape artist Einar Wegener, who after experiencing an “awakening” of gender identity while posing for a painting of his wife Gerda’s, gradually transforms into Lilli Elbe and becomes one of the first people to ever receive gender-correction surgery. This film explores the complex relationship between Einar, Gerda, and Lilli which occurred during an era when the idea of Transgender people did not exist and for Einar to become Lilli was a sure sign of mental illness to many.
The film explores their complex relationship from married heteronormative couple to loving best friends as Einar transitions into Lilli. This is not to say that the film paints transition as a smooth journey. Gerda must struggle with the fact that she desperately want to keep Einar as her husband while she finds success with her paintings of Lilli. On the other hand, Lilli is desperate to leave Einar behind, yet does not want to hurt Gerda in the process.
Einar and Lilli are played by Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in last year’s The Theory of Everything and was nominated again this year for this role. Gerda Wegener is played by Alicia Vikander who won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Gerda.
Both Redmayne and Vikander are powerful forces in this film. Their on-screen chemistry plays very well throughout the entire film. Redmayne brings incredible emotional depth and powerful physical transformation to Einar and Lilli. Vikander plays Gerda with an emotional vulnerability that left me hoping that she was able to find herself after Lilli found herself.
The Danish Girl is a beautiful film visually. In the “Making of The Danish Girl” bonus feature on the Blu-ray edition, director Tom Hooper explains that he wanted the film to look like a series of paintings and was inspired by the work of Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi. The colors of the set and backgrounds are further embellished by the gorgeous costuming of Paco Delgado, who was also nominated for an Academy Award.
The film can be slow at points but is still a worthy watch. I found myself a bit confused in the beginning when it was not clearly explored how Einar came to find Lilli as a true identity. However, once it is apparent that Lilli is blossoming out of the body that once belonged to Einar, the complexity of the intersection of love and true identity shines through.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards. In addition to those mentioned above were Eve Stewart (Production Design) and Michael Standish (Set Decoration) for Best Production Design. These four were well deserved as was the win for Alicia Vikander.