Review by Chantelle Dusette
With the awards season upon us, I thought I’d take the opportunity see what films Netflix had to offer relating to the Oscars, and was pleasantly reminded of a film that I’d been meaning to see….. and meaning to see…… and meaning to see……until eventually…..yeah, don’t you just hate it when that happens?
The Danish Girl. Based on the book of the same title by David Ebershoff, an international best seller, this is a fictional account about the lives of married painters Einar Wegener and Gerda Gottlieb and more specifically about Einar’s journey, transitioning into Lili Elbe, as one of the earliest recorded transgender women to have undergone surgery in 1931. A posthumous autobiography was written about Lili Elbe entitled Man Into Woman: An Authentic Record of a Change of Sex. Compiled from Lili’s own letters and manuscripts, in 1933, the book was edited by Niels Hoyer.
Lucinda Coxon (Wild Target) adapted The Danish Girl for the screen and Tom Hopper (The Kings Speech, Les Misérables) directs. The film boats an impressive cast including Eddie Redmayne (Lili), Alicia Vikander (Gerda) who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the role, Amber Heard (Ulla), Ben Whishaw (Henrik) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Hans).
The story begins with Einar and Gerda’s relationship, a playful romance, filled with love, the pair share a deep affection for one another, a seemingly robust relationship that has been able to withstand their bohemian sensibilities and surroundings.
Einar is a successful painter and Gerda is hoping to follow in her husband’s footsteps. She is called into a gallery (on Einar’s recommendation) to have her art reviewed but gets rejected. Frustrated and hurt, Gerta returns home upset and asks her husband to sit for her, she has a portrait that needs completing of Ulla and is in need of a model. Einar reluctantly obliges after receiving instructions to wear hosiery and shoes, changing into the attire signals the beginning of the outward embodiment of Lili.
At first, the idea of Lili is presented as something of a game that the open minded couple can play together, taking her to a social occasion but it soon becomes evident that this is not about playing dress up. Masquerading as a woman and being seen as such, albeit briefly, opens Einar to a whole new reality and set of possibilities but not without struggle. With Lili’s ever more presence, tensions increase and it becomes more and more apparent where the couple’s relationship is headed. It is heart-breaking for everyone, there are no straight forward answers but there is love and lots of it.
One of the most beautifully told stories, about love, loss, identity and freedom, about someone who, even though afraid and facing huge opposition, had the courage of her conviction to be and I have no shame in saying I cried…..a lot.