THE DANISH GIRL (2015) Review
Directed by Tom Hooper
After his win at last year’s Academy Awards for Best Actor as the great Stephen Hawking, many are anticipating his next role to be something different yet again. Eddie Redmayne stars as one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery where in his reproductive organs are replaced with a woman’s or what we call today transgenders. It might not be a shock to most but the film is set in the mid 1920s. There you go. For a film like this to work, it needed a very effective actors to portray such roles, thankfully Redmayne is accompanied by Alicia Vikander who’s known for her role in Ex Machina.
The film starts with Redmayne and Vikander as husband and wife Einar and Gerda Wegener. The two are perfectly happy with each other as married couples, both in the line of arts though Einar’s works are more recognized but Gerda tries hard for her works to be acknowledged by other artists. She’s currently working on a portrait that time but her artist isn’t available so she asked her husband to pose for her instead. But Einar needed to wear the shoes to get the picture Gerda wanted to paint but the shoes weren’t enough, Einar also needed to wear the dress, or at least wear it on top of his clothes which he gladly does though hesitant at first.
Here goes one of the best things about the film. It details Einar’s movement through the touching of the fabric of the silk dress. His fingers thoroughly caressing, feeling the softness and smoothness of the dress. Einar feels like something inside him has woken up from a very long sleep, that something in his heart is overflowing with emotions and wants to come out. Redmayne perfectly captures that feeling, the look of finally having something for a very long time, the inner contentment. Tom Hooper’s way of presenting this is very effective as he knows when and how to focus on what part of the body and how it will be shot. All of these were ended when their friend Ula played by Amber Heard arrived and startled him. Ula notices Einar’s beauty and gave him the name Lili.
After that, Einar knew something is wrong with him, something bothers him, makes him think of deep thoughts. He begins to have fetishes about his wife in a silky lingerie as he loved the fabric touching his skin. After a party in which they are both all dressed up, the two get all intimate at their bed, revealing Einar wearing one of Gerda’s lingerie. Even with that, Gerda continued on touching his husband. Einar on the other hand is more turned on than ever, it’s as if the two have found a new way to make their marriage be more passionate. After making love, Lili started to draw Einar in a lady-like façade. Einar impressed, praises her works.
As they plan on a party later that day, Einar’s lack of interest lead Gerda to make Einar attend dressed as Lili but before that, the two enjoyed playing at Lili’s character by dressing up and make Einar pose for different womanly positions. The two came to the party as Gerda and Lili, Einar’s cousin. The two have this bond that surely won’t wear off easily, it’s like a sisterly bond that enjoys the company of each other but also looks out for each other. Henrik approaches Lili who is alone that time, the two chatted and got to know each other, isolates themselves from the crowd. Henrik closes in to Lili, tries and succeeds in kissing her. Gerda sees from afar and comes toward them but Lili’s nose started to bleed, so Gerda took Lili home.
The two agreed that Lili shouldn’t return anymore to avoid causing trouble for the two. But Einar can’t seem to get Lili out of his mind and his body. Einar started seeing Henrik behind Gerda’s knowledge but the two are mostly just talking until one day, Einar came to Henrik’s house and started making out but Einar panicked as Henrik calls him Einar. Confused, Lili left Henrik’s house and head home as Lili.
Gerda started painting Lili portraits and the art director likes her works and took them for display as they may have a market. Though Gerda’s Lili collection became a sensation, some psychiatrists claim on Einar being insane and a danger to everyone lead them to leave Copenhagen and relocate to Paris where Gerda received an invitation for her collection to be displayed which is a big deal.
Everything from here started to feel a bit off from where it started. But with Redmayne and Vikander’s charm and effective portrayals, the film keeps you interested as it moves forward. The two now settles in Paris, Gerda continued with her Lili collection and Einar supports beside her. But Einar is having troubles within himself, he can’t let Lili be left in Copenhagen so he started to explore himself alone. Gerda met Hans Axgil, Einar’s childhood friend and apparently the first one to kiss Lili. Gerda and Hans arrived at their house but to their surprise, welcomed by Lili. Gerda looks betrayed, heartbroken. Lili is beginning to take over her husband’s identity. That Einar is slowly vanishing from their lives.
Vikander is tremendous as Gerda Wegener. She gracefully lifts all the weight Einar is throwing at her and their relationship plus Einar’s trouble with himself. She really is the center of the story, that it is their story but her pain and views of their journey.
Einear continued on being Lili, and though Hans is giving Gerda the look to make her think that he’s into her, she refuses because of Einar, because of the hope that someday her husband will come back and return to her arms once again. But everything keeps on being complicated as another psychiatrist ordered him to be locked in a room. Until one other, believed him, believed them. Professor Warnekros discussed of the possibility of Lili being a complete woman through a surgery. This would enatail a two-part procedure that Einar has to undergo to fulfil his transformation to being a woman. Lili agrees even with the risks which includes death at a high rate. Lili travels to Germany to start preparing for him to undergo the surgery. It was heart breaking for Gerda to let go of the love of her life but because she loved him that much, she lets him go. And the preparations began, Gerda cannot take another minute worrying about Lili so she travel to Germany and be with Einar and support him through his surgery. Though the first one was a success, with Lili having an almost normal life as an almost woman, with work at a department store and walks as if he’s a real woman. Henrik comes back to their lives which made things complicated for the two, Gerda still loves her husband and still thinks of Lili as Einar.
Though too soon, Lili pushes through with the second and last procedure of her transformation as a woman. Lili survived the surgery but had complications after which lead her to her death. Gerda watched her die peacefully but everything was painful for her as she did lose the love of her life even with Einar’s choices that lead them to his death. Gerda and Hans travelled to one of Einar’s paintings, a hilltop in Denmark. With a windy location, the scar that Gerda gave Lili flew away as it represents Lili being free from all the pain and misery.
With Redmayne and Vikander starring in The Danish Girl, you wouldn’t get disappointed on being compelled by their performances. Even with the film’s uneven story, you get to be engrossed in its characters and story which is the main reason we love going to the movie house. It might not be perfect but its wonders and charms works like magic.
4 OUT OF 5 STARS
“The Danish Girl” opens February 3 exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas from United International Pictures Philippines. Rated R-16 by the MTRCB.
Images from United International Pictures.