The Danish Girl
Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by Lucinda Coxon
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, and Amber Heard
“The Danish Girl” is a wonderfully directed piece of cinema from director Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech” and “Les Miserables,” about Lili Elbe, born Einar Wegener, an early precipitant of the sex change operation. The film is simultaneously specific and universal. It is specific in that it tells a story that is relatable to only a handful of people, yet the story is thematically universal. The film is about a transgender woman, a timely story to tell because of how the transgender issue has been thrust into the limelight over the past few years. Lili’s story is not one of a transgender, but one that is about universal themes of identity and acceptance. Hooper’s direction of “The Danish Girl” highlights these issues. These themes are explored through (I am calling it right now) the Oscar-winning performances of Eddie Redmayne, as Einar/Lili, and Alicia Vikander as Gerda, Einar/Lili’s wife.
In Lili’s case, the identity she searches for is more literal, but it is also her search for her greater place and sense of self. Redmayne’s performance beautifully captures Lili’s search for her identity. Early in the film, Einar inquires as to whether or not Lili had fun at an event that he had attended as Lili. As the movie progresses he starts to become Lili, he thinks her thoughts, he dreams her dreams, and he even tells a doctor “you hurt Lili.” Throughout the movie, he becomes Lili, and Redmayne, much like he did last year in “The Theory of Everything,” sells this transformation from Einar to Lili and the performance is fascinating to watch.
The fascinating aspect about “The Danish Girl” is how Vikander’s Gerda is used to explore acceptance and more precisely the struggle with acceptance. In a powerful scene, the scene that will win Vikander the Oscar, she tells Lili to get her husband, that she needs her husband, she needs to hold her husband. To which Lili replies that she cannot do that. She is fearful that she is losing her husband, that he is no longer the man she knew. Ultimately, in the end, she is by her husband’s side when he ends up becoming Lili, and then there the thing with the scarf at the very end of the movie.