The Danish Girl attempts to tell the story of Danish artist Einar Wegener who becomes Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) the first individual to undergo transgender surgery in the 1920s. However, in the same way Einar Wegener painted beautiful landscapes this film by Tom Hooper sets out the premise in a flutter of eyelashes, luxurious furs and materials but never really seems to strain from the beauty and light to explore the raw and dark episodes; it’s almost a case of blink and you miss them.
Danish artist Einar Wegener who becomes Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) is married to fellow artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). He is the more successful of the two. When Gerda needs to complete a commission to paint a portrait of a ballerina she asks her husband, as a bit of fun, to hold the dress up and put on the stockings and shoes. It is in that moment that Lili starts to emerge, hidden away we learn since childhood through fear and a merciless beating from his father, and so the transition begins. Lili makes an appearance at a ball, with the permission of Gerda who sees it as a bit of fun, and immediately attracts the attention Henrik (Ben Whishaw). The consequences that follow from meeting Henrik are life changing for Gerda and Einar both professionally and personally. They later move to Paris and by sheer coincidence meet Einar’s childhood friend Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts) who introduce the pair to doctor Warnekros (Sebastian Koch).
The Danish Girl is directed by the Oscar winning director, Tom Hooper, who also directed The King’s Speech although not on a par on with that film. Whilst there are scenes shown in the hospital where doctor’s want to commit Einar to the asylum as insane together with the scenes post operation of Lili contorted with pain in bed, it all is feels very sanitized. Why is this? Eddie Redmayne is the answer. He pouts, flutters eyelids and perfectly applies lipstick and mascara but the emotions are lacking. It is Alicia Vikander who saves this movie. She is the emotional force and shows she her acting range after a stellar year in Ex-Machina and Testament of Youth. The heartbreaking scene when Gerda and Einar are in the midst of having sex and she discovers the third person in her marriage Lili is in bed with them as well. She is worthy of the Golden Globe nomination she has received. However, when I say save the movie, Alicia Vikander is a joy to watch but the film doesn’t captivate and the ending is just so ridiculous I instantly forgot it until I looked back at my notes.
The cinematography and soundtrack are both a feast for the eyes and ears. However, I would describe as all fur and flimsy knickers – both actors needed to fully embody their roles and only Alicia Vikander does. I was left thinking does Eddie Redmayne just enjoy the dressing up part and who can blame him really as some of Lili’s costumes are so sublime!
The Danish Girl is released in cinemas across the UK on 1 January 2016.
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