Danish artist, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), painted her own husband, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), as a lady in her painting. When the painting gained popularity, Einar started to change his appearance into a female appearance and named himself Lili Elbe. With his feminism passion and Gerda’s support, Einar, or Elbe, attempted one of the first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, a decision that turned into a massive change for their marriage, that Gerda realized her own husband is no longer a man or the person she married before. A childhood friend of Einar, art-dealer Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), shows up and starts a complex love triangle with the couple.
My quest to see all the perennial award nominees continues with The Danish Girl. I can understand why based on what I saw here. There have been many films made about transgender people and this one happens to be the only one of those which I have seen. This particular one happens to be about one of the first ever males to attempt a sex reassignment surgery. When Danish artist Gerda Wegener (Vikander) decided to paint her own husband, Einar (Redmayne) as a lady in one of her paintings. This seemed to trigger a series of repressed feelings within Einar. Soon after, Einar began to start to dress and look like a female, naming himself Lili Elbe. With his wife’s support, Einar’s decision to undergo surgery became a substantial change for their marriage. When one of Einar’s childhood friends Hans Axgil (Schoenaerts) appears, a complex love triangle develops between the three of them. Sure this is technically a period piece, occuring in 1926 Denmark but that’s not the point. It’s message about gender identity and acceptance still holds true today. Even more so, it is a film about a marriage between two people who are beginning to drift apart once one’s true feelings begin to emerge while the other tries to come to terms with where their marriage is and to evolve and adapt accordingly. I will say that it had me because I was able to believe this every step of the way. What helped this were the performances of both Redmayne and Vikander. I found that Redmayne conveyed the character’s emotions and the psychology involved with repressing the female part of his character for a long time. When he was finally able to express his true feelings, you can really see the weight being lifted off of his shoulders and his expression really helped convey that. The only problem I had with this is that I found it weird to watch him act like a woman and even with the makeover he put himself through, he still kind of looked like a man to me. I was funny to watch other people get fooled by this. As good as Redmayne was, I thought Vikander was better. She was great at being the loving, supporting wife through what must have been a difficult time. She kept up with Redmayne emotion-wise and their chemistry sold me on these scenes. This is also a beautifully shot film with nice cinematography, nice costumes, and engaging music. The music seemed to emphasize Einar’s/Lili’s state which helped add a little power to these scenes. I would have liked that the film talk more about transgender issues and its consequences as it seemed to just touch this as this was more of a secondary issue to Gerda and Einar’s marriage. Overall, despite its issues, this is still a beautiful, modern love story with great performances.