Tuesday, 5 January 2016

L.J. SPENCE ACTUALLY REVIEWS A FILM: THE DANISH GIRL

L.J. SPENCE ACTUALLY REVIEWS A FILM

 

3. THE DANISH GIRL (2015, dir. Tom Hooper)

 

I had intended to be with Layla & Richee when they recorded their podcast review of “The Danish Girl,” but I remember saying, as we left the screening, that I didn’t feel I could review it, as I felt too close to the story to be the objective reviewer I should be.

 

I am transgender, on my way from male to female. I started writing under “L.J.” here in 2013, rather than what the initials stood for, as I didn’t yet know if I would be changing my name – now I have done so, I am keeping the initials here to make searching my posts easier. I have been lucky in the support I have, in how I feel my future is safe and secure, and in that I am not seen as brave, or deceitful, or authentic, or vain – I am still myself, except now much, much happier.

 

That said, to see Lili Elbe dismiss painting as something that Einar Wegener did, and going so far as saying that he is dead, is a bit difficult to hear – some transgender people do seek to reject their former life, to build something entirely new, but it is a simple way to get across how the bond between Einar and Gerda is now broken. 

 

The married couple are shown as one personality at the beginning, but when the eventual signs of Lili start to show, and it is clear it is more than just role-play, Einarhas to craft a personality from scratch. For all the good that Eddie Redmayne is in playing Einar / Lili, to the extent that casting a non-transgender actor is almost a moot point, there isn’t much to both Einar and Lili as characters, other than reflecting Gerda, Hans, the suitor, the doctor, and the prostitute. Unfortunately, with the way the story ends, we never see Lili grow out of the small circle of people within which she exists, which is a mistake.

 

However, Gerda, in a tour de force of a performance by Alicia Vikander, is so much of a protagonist that I thought the Danish Girl was her. To play someone handling an exceptionally complex situation, especially one seldom seen on film, while also playing the emotional centre of the film, certainly deserves a few awards. Matthias Schoenaerts, as art dealer Hans, plays an exceptional refuge for Gerda.

 

As Layla said in the podcast, the film looks so nice that threatens to detract from the story, particularly in showing Gerda’s artwork of Lili, as I wondered whether they were copies of the original works, or doctored to look more like Eddie Redmayne. The stylistic touch of Tom Hooper puts you in mind of a prestige production like “The King’s Speech” or “Les Miserables”, which serves to emphasise the importance of the story, but you want the story to do that on its own.

 

In short, “The Danish Girl” is one of those films where the main character is the cause of everything you see. I am more aware of the importance of Lili Elbe, but I just wish I knew more about her from watching the film – sticking a caption at the end, to say she paved the way for the transgender pioneers of today, seems a little too late.


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