I don’t know if you can tell by now, but I love talking about movies. Last night I watched The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, both of whose names I spelled correctly without looking up.
The Danish Girl is a wonderful, thought provoking, uncomfortably intimate story of one Lili Elbe, and her discovery, acceptance and transition from being born a biological male, to being the woman that Lili was always meant to be. The fact that Lili passes away at the end of the film is not a part of this journey, and is just another event in her life, albeit a terminal event.
When crafting this review (and while watching the film), I was confronted with the fact that this would not be as easy a task as I’ve had in the past. I can’t just tell you that the movie looked pretty, like I did for Dune, nor can I unironically discuss Vin Diesel. Moreover, I realized how many of my first thoughts and vernacular weren’t respectful to Lili and other transgender individuals. On a surface level, I do accept and respect transx people, but I’m ashamed to admit that it’s not yet become as ingrained a response as I’d like. I don’t feel like I’m walking on eggshells, for that implies that I’m tiptoeing my words around that which constitutes disrespectful. Rather, I will self edit myself to ensure that I’m referring to individuals with their appropriate pronouns, sexualities and genders. Not that that’s any of my business in the first place.
A Masterclass in Acting
The film in question is a character study. The subject matter of the film is so sensitive and impactful that it would detract from, and be borderline insulting to, Lili’s struggles and pain. As a consequence, the film can only have been told responsibly by handing the reins of her character to someone incredibly talented and adept. Redmayne has, in one film, cemented himself as one of the best, if not the best, actors I’ve ever seen in film.
This isn’t the best example of Redmayne’s genius because I didn’t want to spoil it for you yet.
The film requires that we sit with and explore Lili’s triumph over Einar. The way that she begins to see herself, accept herself, and become herself. This is not an easy task, cinematically. A change within oneself is incredibly nuanced, subtle and fraught with denial, pain and confusion. Even a traditional change in a monomyth has the added benefit of letting the protagonist experience their character change towards the end, during the climax, while having the moral and narrative discussion about this change being discussed throughout the film.
Redmayne, and the film’s director, Tom Hooper, had the monumental task of expressing inner growth and change throughout the film, and the climax actually being an inversion in terms of traditional structure, wherein the protagonist has finished internally changing, and accepts who they are. I don’t mean the gender reassignment surgery that Lili opts to undergo, but I mean the emotional and mental acceptance that Lili is and has always been a woman.
Constructing the Film
The film also benefits from some incredible cinematography and mise-en-scene. I don’t usually talk about the latter, as it’s more of a ‘film study’ thing and the concept is not all that much more complicated than, ‘the shit in the scene’. In this case, however, the shit in the scene is largely Lili and Gerda’s artwork, as well as many objects for the characters to interact with to give the filmworld a true period setting.
This is the first film in a long time where I truly believed that they lived in some Eastern European country before any world war. It was wonderful to see these beautiful sets that found a way to demonstrate the time period the film takes place in without conforming to any stereotypical clichés.
The Danish Girl is an intimate, slow, gorgeous film with the best acting I’ve seen in my life. This is the type of film you sit and study, not just hang out and watch. 8/10. I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything crass about Vikander going topless in this movie during my review and I am happy to report that I haven’t said anything like Vikander’s boobies are in this movie.
EDIT: Ok so the same asshole that made this amazing movie, and also Les Misérables and also The King’s Speech wrote, directed and produced this piece of shit:
I don’t know if Hooper is a fucking genius or if he’s just taking us for a goddamn ride. What in tarnation…