The Danish Girl positively reeks of class—a period piece about a timely topic set in a foreign country starring an Oscar winner (that would be Eddie Redmayne) and directed by another (that would be Tom Hooper). It overcomes any faults by virtue of its being a splendidly mounted production, and by reinforcing co-star Alicia Vikander’s deserved status as the actress du jour.
Based on the same-named novel by David Ebershoff, it tells of real-life Dutch landscape artist Einar Wegener (Redmayne), who secretly identified as a woman and in the 1920s became one of the first to undergo sex-change surgery. We watch as Einar becomes less Einar and more Lili, his female self, and how his wife, portrait artist Gerda Wegener (Vikander), struggles with the transformation.
Though Einar and Gerda, and Einar’s situation, were all real, the book (and subsequently Lucinda Coxon’s script) apparently imagines, alters or outright omits just about everything else about and around them, including their ages, exactly how Einar died, and the supporting characters played by Matthias Schoenaerts and Ben Whishaw (both excellent).
So as long as you know, and can accept, that this is a pretty-fied account of the Wegeners, you can soak in everything good about it. Like Redmayne, whom I bought only half the time as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything but who completely convinced me here as an early 20th century man who feels like a woman trapped in man’s body, so ably does he convey Einar’s ache.
But though the movie centers on Einar, Gerda’s reaction to his condition proved much more fascinating to me, perhaps because as written by Coxon, and portrayed so skillfully by Vikander, it’s not just a typical, that’s-nice-dear wife role. She’s a vital, interesting woman before the revelation, and doesn’t fade away in the least after, her initial resistance credibly transforming to compassion.
If the subject matter bothers you, or the performances don’t meet your standards, you can always bask in the glow of the beautifully designed costumes or in how gorgeously Hooper (The King’s Speech) lights the film and frames the shots. And if that fails to impress you, then close your eyes and immerse yourself in composer Alexandre Desplat’s soothing, piano-powered score. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 3/1/16