A story as heartbreaking as it is romantic, and as decorated as it is well-performed.
The Danish Girl, as directed by Academy Award Winner Tom Hooper known for his works in The King’s Speech tells the story of Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) as they navigate through their increasingly complicated marriage when Einar starts to transform into his inner, transgender self – Lili Elbe.
Opening with an apt presentation and innovative methods of editing, The Danish Girl establishes its central characters, husband and wife Wegeners in a quick and fashionable manner, displaying their original, chief characteristics such as that of Gerda’s inferiority in her ability to paint as relative to Einar and her lacking of a good model.
Act 1 moves at a quick pace as it should, with some goals of foreshadowing in mind Hooper swiftly established the film’s main production design – a somewhat sombre, simple apartment building in which the couple resides. Here he then sets the stage for the intimacy of the main characters to be progressively demonstrated and at times he even draws our interest in a comedic fashion, effective especially in the midst of act 1 when it becomes imperative to provide enough momentum to keep us engaged during act 2 where the plot usually descends into respective tedium.
As we move onto the end of the introduction, Eddie Redmayne’s transformative prowess is highlighted significantly. In fact both Alicia Vikander as Gerda and Redmayne’s Einar are specifically complimented by cinematography – via the numerous closeups their subtle expressions could be seen, whether it be a twitch of the mouth or the rapid blinking of the eyes, Hooper can always manage to keep the focus long enough for the meaning behind these pretty faces to be realized.
Though these technical aspects may be grand, the dialogues can at times be over-romantic and somewhat vague to be of any purpose, neither quite developing the characters involved nor effectively moving the plot forward, the time involved in the process however would be much better used more central conversations or inner depictions of the mind. It’s also here that we perceive the appearance of Ben Whishaw, in some respects a criminal misuse as Henrik – Lili’s first love, however the performance is still enjoyable to be seen nonetheless.
While Einar develops into her true self Lili, music score becomes a integral part of the film. To emphasize his confusion and the chaotic nature of the situation the movements, as composed by Oscar-winning Alexandre Desplat become increasingly dramatic yet at the time providing a lingering presence of Lili even when she doesn’t take physical form. For Gerda too this is a powerful compliment to Vikander’s exquisite performance, where her desperation, frustration and the undoubted love for her husband is fully expressed through the accompanying score.
Set design is yet another masterful manipulation which Hooper has subtly altered to implement hidden expressions. For example the hospital in which Einar was condemned to be mentally unstable had a sombre tone of whites and melancholic light blues; while the house in France in which Gerda flourished as a painter was composed mainly of warm, and aesthetically pleasing colours, representing the ongoing rebirth of Lili.
It’s touching that Gerda could sympathize with Lili, however there is a certain lack of development in her character to show the gradual altering of her opinion from distrust and disbelief to embracing the new woman that was her husband of 6 years.
Indeed it has been another glorious performance by Eddie Redmayne, his every subtle feminine gestures as Lili, his faces of doubts, confusion, happiness and fulfilment are in some ways, even more complex than that of Hawking- the Oscar-Winning performance from The Theory of everything.
Though it can get somewhat tedious and frankly repetitive in the second act, the drama intensifies towards the end, as the heart-warming yet infinitely teary plot progresses we are brought to the epitome of a man/woman’s self-assurance. And though we’ve not necessarily been brought under Lili’s skin but merely glimpsed at her journey, it is truly satisfying and emotional to see a film such as The Danish Girl being made, produced and played in front of our eyes, not exactly offering a fresh perspective, but instead further solidifies our understanding.
In theatres Australia wide from 21st of January
MPAA Rating: R
ACB Rating: M
Run Time: 120 min
An overzealous film critic wannabe, Henry Pan makes a trip down cinema lane once a week, in order to decrease his ever-increasing massive watch list. You can follow him and hear all about his rants on films, life and pet dogs on Twitter @LifeOfPan.