Sometimes a film sounds like it was made purely to win awards, and not for the entertainment of audiences. The Danish Girl should have been one of these films. The word ‘acclaimed’ could be used to describe roughly any part of this cast or crew, and the premise is so emotional even reading the synopsis will bring a tear to some eyes. But something here is different – for me at least. Eddie Redmayne was incredible last year in The Theory of Everything, and Alicia Vikander had, in my opinion, a better year in 2015 than any other actor, so that pairing was truly intriguing, and Tom Hooper directed one of my favourite films of recent years, Les Misérables, so everything fell into place for this film to not seem like Oscar bait, even if it probably is.
The Danish Girl is the real life story of Einar Wegener, a renowned Danish landscape painter at the start of the 20th century, who was one of the first people to successfully undergo gender reassignment surgery. The film also follows his wife Gerda Wegener, as she tries her best to cope with the situation.
I was very pleased that both of the leads not only met, but exceeded my expectations. Eddie Redmayne once again completely transformed into his character, with clear physical and vocal differences between what is essentially two separate characters. Everything about his performance was layered and nuanced, and in his scenes as Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener’s true identity), at no point did he come across as being a man in drag, nor a camp man, he was playing a woman in every way. It was also wonderful to see a character like this not being played for laughs, as is so often the case.
Alicia Vikander also gave an incredible performance as Gerda Wegener, and she was arguably both the main character, and the best part of the film. Her emotional deterioration but constant desire to stay strong was a difficult character arc to pull off, but she did it with ease.
My only slight fault with the film is that it didn’t quite have the emotional punch I was hoping for, and honestly expecting. Yes, at the end I was in tears (I cry in everything), but I was expecting a bit more from a story that was frequently difficult to watch.
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