Review: 'The Danish Girl' a timely, important story


As Caitlin Jenner graces the covers of magazines and films her own reality show, "The Danish Girl," takes us back to a time when doctors prescribed "treatment for perversion" for transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne).

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Based on David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel, when we first meet painter Einar Wegener (Redmayne) it’s the mid-1920s and he’s married to struggling portraitist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander).

They’re happy and supportive, but a shift occurs when he dresses in female clothing to pose for one of Gerde’s paintings. It’s a playful moment and they even create an alter ego for the model, Lili Elbe.

For Gerde it’s a lark, for Einar a revelation.

Years of confusion come into sharp focus as he realizes he was born into the wrong gender and takes extreme steps to become the person he knows he should be.

"It doesn't matter what I wear," he says. "It's what I dream, they are Lili's dreams."

The Danish Girl review

Health professionals suggest locking him up and electro therapy to "cure" him.

"Do you keep a lock on your wardrobe?" asks one doctor. "You must not encourage this kind of behaviour."

Hope for the life she always dreamed about comes from a German sexologist who offers risky experimental sex reassignment surgeries.

"God made me a woman," says Lili. "The doctor is healing me of the sickness that was my disguise."

The Danish Girl film review

"The Danish Girl" is Redmayne’s movie. It’s a delicate, studied performance but one that reveals the character’s inner strength. Lili lives in hope, hope for the life she was meant to live, hope that she will get to live it. Redmayne is sensitive and sensual as he sheds Einar’s affectations to become Lili.

Vikander has a less showy role, but holds the screen as the film’s emotional core, a woman who valued her relationship regardless of the changes that came her way.

The film itself hits the emotional notes, but feels a bit too glossy overall. Director Tom Hooper’s camera caresses every scene, luxuriating in the finely wrought period details giving a "Downton Abbey" sheen to the whole thing when a more raw approach would have lent some urgency to the story. The quietly melodramatic presentation showcases the actors but lessens the story’s impact.

"The Danish Girl" is a zeitgeisty movie that gives a "Masterpiece Theatre" veneer to a timely and important story.


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