The Danish Girl (2015)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

United Kingdom/Germany/USA, 2015, , , , , , , , .  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , Tom Hooper, .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) live happily as husband and wife in 1920s Copenhagen, both painters though she lives under the shadow of her more celebrated and respected spouse. Gerda uses Einar as a model when the girl she usually employs is unavailable, creating a whimsical joke that goes the extra distance when Einar dresses up and attends a ball with her, passing himself off as his own cousin Lili. The ruse works (even roping in a suitor in an underused ) but, more importantly, it awakens feelings that Einar has been keeping at bay for a long time, that he has always felt himself a female who was born in the wrong body. The times being what they are, however, Einar is not liberated but made to feel like he is insane, believing Lili a separate entity who invades his mind and takes over; Gerda, meanwhile, makes Lili the subject of paintings that finally see her getting recognition for her work. Tom Hooper follows a plot similar to his breakout hit The King’s Speech, giving us another sympathetic individual whose qualities make them feel socially ostracized until they find the perfect doctor to solve their problems. This time, however, the approach is somber and, in meaning to be respectful, unnecessarily humorless. Einar is something of a cipher, while his Lili is a passive bore, and why Lili doesn’t paint when Einar was clearly good at it is never adequately explained.   Gerda, who is far more charismatic than her male co-star, speaks out against Lili’s expectation that she accept everything without complaint, still relegated to second banana even at the prospect that her husband is now a gal like herself. Hooper has little interest in her objections, quickly cutting away from Vikander’s frustration to get back to closeups of Redmayne’s shy smiles and tears.   He has even less interest in Lili’s actual life, quickly skimming over a scene of her passing as a perfume girl behind a department store counter and focusing instead on long sequences of Redmayne preening in front of mirrors; you could read a disturbing covert message here that when a man becomes a woman he ceases to be an individual and becomes instead a symbol.  The third act, in which Lili is given the medical attention she deserves and goes on to break new ground as the tragic pioneer figure of a movement still having a difficult time making headway, is rushed through far too quickly.  It seems that Hooper is handling this story with kid gloves so that you can watch it with your grandmother, a smart story made in a pandering, dull way, beautifully shot but never moving beyond a first dramatic movement.

Academy Award:  Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander)
Nominations: Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne); Best Production Design; Best Costume Design

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Actor-Drama (Eddie Redmayne); Best Actress-Drama (Alicia Vikander); Best Original Score

Screen Actors Guild Award:  Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander)
Nomination: Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne)

Toronto International Film Festival:  2015

Venice Film Festival:  In Competition

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