Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Film Review: "The Danish Girl" (2015).




"Find the courage to be yourself." 
This is the message at the heart of The Danish GirlThis biographical drama film directed by Tom Hooper; adapted by Lucinda Coxon; based on the novel of the same name by David Ebershoff and loosely inspired by the lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. The film tells a fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

The movie is a fictionalized account of the lives of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, not an actual biopic. The author changed so many elements of Einar Wegener's story that the characters in the book are entirely fictional. The love story portrayed in the novel and in this film is fiction, historical accounts claim that Gerda was a lesbian and that she preferred Lili's femininity over Einar's masculinity and that they had an open relationship. Gerda lived openly as a lesbian while she lived in Paris with Lili. However they were more like sisters than spouses or lovers, but in the film she is portrayed as a straight, faithful and suffering wife who never left her husband. Gerda and Lili didn't remain close after their marriage was annulled. In addition, Einar and Gerda's marriage officially lasted 26 years, they got married at 22 and 18 years old. Lili was 47 years old when she got the sex reassignment surgery and died at 48, due to organ rejection after a uterus transplant. Where as the film only mentions that Einar and Gerda had been married for 6 years. Finally, Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe wasn't the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery, she was among the first. Carla van Crist, Toni Ebel and Dörchen Ritcher had already had the surgery before Lili arrived in Berlin. Lili's operations were made by Kurt Warnekros in Dresden, her first surgery was made under Hirschfeld's supervision in Berlin. Furthermore, Gerda Wegener was Danish, not American. The novelist changed her name to Greta Waud and her origin to American and California-born to please the American readers. 

The film stars Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard and Ben Whishaw. The performances, given by the cast, were varied. Redmayne gave a startling performance as the tragic Einar / Lili. Vikander gave a superb performance. It can be debated whether or not this was actually Gerda's story rather than Einar / Lili's. But Vikander was the heart of the film for sure. Finally, Heard gave a surprising performance from her usual fair. If only her role was not reduced as it was.

The Danish Girl features terrific performances by the cast that carries this unconventional but touching transgender movie. Coxon's screenplay is standard but sensitive, so the ample human emotion never drifts into complete dullness. Despite the sentimentalised fictional account of the main character, there are enough other interesting characters and plot developments to make the story compelling.

Simon says The Danish Girl receives:


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