movie: The Danish Girl (2015)

This review is spoiler-free. The movie does contain a surprise, so be careful what you read elsewhere.

danish girlThe Danish Girl is a film based on a novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, which is based on a true historical figure. That figure was born Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener, married a woman named Gerda and made a living as a successful painter. But when Gerda asks Einar to pose for one of her paintings in place of a female model who’s running late, the moment is eye-opening. Einar in fact has always held a secret identification as a woman, now named Lili. From this time on, she has come to stay. Lili Elba was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery (or gender confirmation surgery, a phrase I like).

Gerda and Lili live in Copenhagen at the beginning of their story, and move to Paris when Gerda’s own career as a painter takes off. I found it not insignificant that Gerda’s time to shine coincides with Lili’s time of upheaval; Gerda too struggles with the timing. This is of course not the only problem Gerda has in adjusting to her new circumstances: she loved her husband, and as represented onscreen, their marriage was happy, healthy and loving. Not without some complaint and tears, then, but Gerda does in the end support Lili’s needs and her journey. This in itself is a lovely story: love conquers all.

The move indeed gives a rosy portrait overall, of this relationship and of Lili’s experience, her strength and bravery. It was beautifully done: the acting is exquisite, by both Alicia Vikander as Gerda and Eddie Redmayne as Lili. And I enjoyed the setting in time (1920’s-30’s) and place, although I’m not overly qualified to judge its realism. But I suspect things were not quite so picturesque in the real version. And of course there’s a lot of history that we don’t have access to, I’m sure. (The story [I suppose this means in turn Ebershoff’s novel] is based on Lili’s memoir, Man Into Woman, which is a great start.) In other words, it’s a movie.

But a very good movie, with a fascinating and culturally significant story, outstanding visuals – the paintings, the galleries, and Redmayne’s transformation into a lovely woman. The acting is tops. I found it dreamy and am glad I saw it. If you go see it, too – and you should – do avoid reading about this film or Lili Elbe’s life; I think it was worthwhile to discover it this way, spoiler-free, if you will.

Rating: 8 poses.

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