My Rating: 7 out of 10
The Danish Girl was a difficult film to sit through (and to write about), not because it was poorly made or boring, but because of the difficultly and intensity of its subject matter. Like other recent films I have written about, the actors so expertly become the characters that they are playing that it makes you feel as though you are watching the lives of real people through a secret window. This is precisely what a great film should do, but because of the immensely personal story the movie tells, it is difficult not to feel uncomfortable at points.
This is absolutely a film that could only have been made in the modern times, though it doesn’t tell a modern story, which I think helps to separate the issue from some of the political and social battles currently going on. The Danish Girl is the story of the Danish artist Einar Wegener (played by Eddie Redmayne), who sits for a portrait for his wife Gerda (played by Alicia Vikander) while dressed as a woman, which leads to repressed feelings of gender confusion coming to the surface and Einar transitioning into a female alter-ego named Lili.
However, the story isn’t so much about the transition or the stigmas of transexuality, as it is about the love Gerda has for her husband, which is seemingly unending. Throughout the difficult process, Gerda sticks by her husband and later comes to see him and the woman that he sees himself as despite the anguish and pain it brings her. In the end, this film was about a bond that could not be broken by the judgments of society or the identity confusion that Einar goes through. Whether you are someone that feels transgender individuals are mentally ill or genuinely trapped in the wrong body, the story of love that is at the heart of The Danish Girl will still resonate with you. Instead of focusing on many other important characters (such as the families of Einar and Gerda), the filmmakers made the choice to make this the story of this couple’s inner world.
This is a powerful film that I think will definitely get some sort of Oscar nomination this year, but if feeling like a voyeur to the immensely private life of a close couple for two hours makes you too uncomfortable, you may want to skip out on this one or at least watch it at the time and place where you can take a break in the middle. This film is heartwarming and emotional, but rarely happy. Overall, I think the filmmakers made the piece of art they set out to, but the heaviness of the subject matter and voyeuristic quality of the viewing was a bit much for me.