"The Danish Girl" Review
By Miv Evans
This true story about a transgender man suffers badly from overkill. At two hours, it’s too long; the music is too dramatic; the actors try too hard and there’s much too much crying.
However, it’s a cleverly titled piece and the subject matter is interesting enough to make it just about worth watching. But only just.
Einer Wegener/Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and his devoted wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), are fine artists living in Copenhagen. Their lives are no different from any other until the day Gerda persuades Einer to pose as a woman for one of her paintings. Einer slips into the taffeta all too comfortably and very soon finds himself cross-dressing for pleasure.
As Einer’s preference for his feminine side grows, he creates a new persona who he calls Lili, and she draws him so totally into her world that he becomes obsessed with the idea of casting off Einer forever and becoming who he believes he was meant to be.
Although Gerda spends a great deal of her time on screen in tears, she does manage to imbue her character with life but, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Einer. His unwavering remoteness could have made sense in the fabric of the story if, when Lili appears, she was to show us the happiness she’s found by embracing her femininity.
But, unfortunately, Einer’s alter-ego is even more inaccessible than Einer himself, and Lila fulfils her role by simpering coyly through every scene. What the audience needed at this point was for Lili to relish her female status, unaware that she was creating history, which is the entire point of the film.
This elevation would also have leant relief to the dour mood that pervades the film from beginning to end and it seems Emerald Fennell, who played Gerda’s friend Elsa, felt the same way. Unfortunately, however, she hams it up to such an extent that she becomes a caricature which jars against the backdrop of such a serious world.
There’s a point in Einer’s journey when he decides to leave Gerda behind and travel alone to have his surgery. This marked both the end of his life as a man, and the end of his relationship with his wife, thus the story of how Einer became the first Danish transgender has been told.
But unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t see it that way, and the story continues to limp along, informing a disinterested audience about the finer details of transgender surgery, and with Gerda reappearing, showing yet more undying devotion to her tortured husband.
The true facts of what happened between these two people is that they went their separate ways when Einer went off to have his surgery, and the most Gerda ever did after this was send her estranged spouse flowers. So all this fictitious finale achieves is to increase the budget and distort a piece of history that was suited better to the truth.
Guys, when the horse is dead, dismount.
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