Release: 16th May 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Based on the book by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, portrayed by Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), and directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables). Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
Eddie Redmayne loves a tormented soul. He went from last year’s astounding portrayal of Stephen Hawking to overtly chasing another Oscar here, as Einelar Wegener / Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl.
Telling the questionably true story of history’s not-so-first transgender female (pipped to the post by Dora Ritcher), The Danish Girl functions like a beautiful painting of little substance. In fact, this film is proof that just because a movie is ‘revolutionary’ in its subject matter, doesn’t mean it is necessarily worth watching.
One of The Danish Girl’s biggest flaws is that it tries to make this a love story between two ‘friends’ rather than exploring the birth of a pioneer. Einelar finds a playmate in his wife, Gerda, that quickly develops into a sisterhood as Einelar becomes Lili. There is little tension between the two. Lines blur between what is and what isn’t acceptable in their relationship, without it ever really becoming a substantial divide. Gerda, seemingly responsible for igniting Lili’s reveal, flits between intrigue and distain. She gets worn down by Einelar’s struggles, but then borders on apathy towards his choices. Einelar, meanwhile seems to treat Lili (his alrer ego) as though she is a character rather than an identity.
It is Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili that pushes The Danish Girl firmly into the bogus, as his ‘femanine’ actions feel glaringly false. Lili isn’t a woman in the sense of personality, rather than a characterchure of one. Imagine a skinny man acting like a Japanese school girl, and you are close. Alicia Vikander (making one of 900 appearances in film this year) gives Gerda a strength that skirts the lines of gender reversal as the ‘trousers’ in their relationship. It isn’t a bad performance, but a rather one-dimensional endeavour.
Hooper direction is flawless, and it remains to be said that as an artist he paints every frame of the film immaculately. This compliment extends to Danny Cohen’s cinematography (who also dazzled with Room this year) and production designer Eve Stewart. In fact, The Danish Girl is possibly one of the best looking films you’ll catch on Blu-Ray.
As an exploration of gender reassignment, The Danish Girl is neither physically or emotionally astute enough to be considered fully developed; let alone worthy of any Oscar wins. In fact, considering the level of talent involved in its making, this is tragically a feather edged image away from being Channel 5 schlock.
Film Grade: C-
A fleeting yet rather informative Making Of proves to be an underwhelming addition to an already disappointing film.
Special Features Grade: D+