In which Eddie Redmayne spends a lot of time crying, people are surprisingly accepting and patient, and Alicia Vikander completely steals the show.
The Danish Girl is the fictionalised story of Lili Elbe & Gerda Wegener. Elbe is one of the first transgender women who actually underwent sex-change surgeries in order to physically become a woman.
To be honest, it’s a bit embarassing how, despite identifying as a LGBTQ person and having volunteered in the community, I’d somehow never heard of Lili Elbe until roughly this week. Which is exactly the reason it’s good to have movies like The Danish Girl. LGBTQ history belongs to the whole world, and having high-profile people involved in a movie like this one is a good way of making Elbe’s story more well known in the world. In turn, that is why I don’t mind as much that they cast cisgendered (as far as we know) Eddie Redmayne in the role of a transgender person. Yes, we need more actual trans representation. But getting an actor like Redmayne involved is a great way of getting more attention and getting the story actually out there.
Besides, Redmayne did a good job of portraying the struggles of not identifying with your assigned gender. Is it an Oscar-worthy performance? No. While I think he did his job well, I also think at times he might’ve been too much of a stereotype.
Alicia Vikander as Gerda, however? Personally, I like to think the ‘Danish Girl’ means Gerda. The story is as much, if not more, about her. It’s about Gerda’s struggles in losing her husband. It’s about confused, angry, gentle, frustrated and oh so patient Gerda. If there’s anyone in this movie who should win an Oscar, it’s Vikander. While Redmayne showed essentially the same feelings over and over, Vikander shows a delicate range of emotions and tags us all along.
The movie itself doesn’t have quite as much range. It’s a beautiful movie, even in its “look at me, I’m an ~artsy important~ movie” way. There are some cinematographically cliche but pleasing shots. The story generally calmly moves forward, carefully avoiding too much climax. But despite all the scenes that were obviously meant to be heart-wrenching, I only almost-cried at one point (darn that stupid scarf).
Still, there’s so much left unexplained, that I wish the movie would’ve gone into further. There’s so much they started but never finished, and it bugs me.
The Danish Girl left an impression, and I do need some more time to really fully process it. It’s not perfect, it’s not Oscar-worthy material, but it’s worth a watch. 3.5 out of 5 stars from me.