The Danish Girl, a review

I wanted so much from long awaited The Danish Girl. 


When I heard that blue-eyed Brit Eddie Redmayne who won an Oscar for his impressive performance in The Theory of Everything, the story of Stephen Hawking’s life and relationship following diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, had been cast as real life lead protagonist Lili Elbe, I could hardly wait. Redmayne is whispered to be expecting another nomination for his present role as one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery whose autobiography Man into Woman was published in 1933.

The Danish Girl, is based on the life of Lili who was born Einar Wegenar. Lilli comes to life when artist Gerda needs a model to fill in for an absent friend and Einar finds themself surprisingly comfortable in ladies stockings and from this point starts to attend events as Lili- Einar’s cousin (in real life she was introduced as Einar’s sister, with very few close friends knowing of the transition). The story tells of the journey to have the body Lili feels she should have been born into. The surgery, which was experimental at the time, took place over two years in Dresden, Lili passed away shortly after the final surgery. 

The film, released on 1 January 2016, the same weekend as Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour asks “Was 2015 the year trans became mainstream?“, carries a huge responsibility in properly portraying life as a transgender person sensitively and it is sucessful in doing so. Some of the struggles of transgender people which sadly still exist today, such as when Lilli is beaten up walking through a park in Paris are also shown throughout the film. Set in the 1920s Lili also experienced the difficulties of being labelled insane by some in the medical profession, who were unfamiliar with transgender people.

Parts of the film are emotional and effective. Like Redmayne’s full frontal nudity that gives the audience a small taste of what it might feel like to feel so at odds with ones body. The scene is raw and maintains the audiences high hopes of something that’s going to be truly spectacular. I only wish Lili’s character was more likeable, less selfish and that Redmayne’s slow blinking and exaggerated gestures had been relaxed by the director, these characteristics become grating after two hours and I wish a transgender actor who could understand the part more intimitaley had been cast.

The story is touching but The Danish Girl didn’t live up to expectations. 7/10.


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