Film Review – The Danish Girl (2015)


The Danish Girl (2015)
Director: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Ebershoff (novel), Lucinda Coxon (screenplay)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard 

Runtime: 119 Minutes

Opening with a visually scenographic sequence, the credits paint the backdrop for a film that questions beauty, denoting art, identity and life experience. The Danish Girl, initially traditional in essence, slowly becomes an exploration of one’s identity, interrogating ideas of gender and sexuality. This fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, inspires and amuses with its truthful retelling, of a story embellished in challenge and acceptance. In this film, Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer. In this feast of naturalistic performance, Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander act with sensitivity and honesty, originally derived from an authentic truthful tale.

The Danish Girl, is a film that reaches out and paints a picture, not only visually but mentally: this film is challenging, emotional and all-encompassing. The film begins with an introduction to our two leading characters, presenting their marriage, work and social ability. This initial content reflects an idealistic life, with Elinar (Eddie Redmayne) stating “my life, my wife’, an introduction to his love and devotion of wife, Gerda. However, the setting up of their life is constantly interrupted with foreshadowed events which come in three stages. Firstly, Elinar, touching costumes featured in a ballet studio, secondly, touching up his wife’s makeup and lastly, putting on a pair of ballet shoes posing in replacement of Gerda’s female model. These three stages, could often be analysed as cliché, bringing a notion of strong indication towards future events, which is often a hindrance to the audiences journey through the action. It seems within the film, you are indoctrinated to question from the offset, highlighted in the above foreshadowings. This is not the only thing referenced in a three-part sequence. Throughout the film there is a highlighting of the bed, each time the scenario or situation of our characters has developed. Changing in dynamic and action, the bed offers a grounding throughout the film, almost offering symbolism starting with the marriage, then breakdown and finally the change of identity. 

In this film, there is an undeniable beauty in the interaction between characters. Both leading actors present an authentic trust on screen, allowing the audience to invest in the story and believability of the performance. There is a real sense of development in their relationship, presenting the highs and lows that are complex and embedded in love, devotion and support. The husband and wife relationship is at the heart of the film, it can be said that the other action stems from the centrality of the marriage. The sense of drama in this film is perfectly constructed, demonstrated in great moments of silence reflecting a naivety that is perfectly pitched. Within these intense moments of silence, the audience is offered a moment to pause, accept the content being demonstrated and in this we can imagine ourselves in the characters situation. The pauses are designed to draw us in and this is definitely achieved. The film demonstrates a critical eye on the purpose of life, questioning difference, diversity and oppression. 

Set in Copenhagen, 1926, the scenography of this film is picturesque. Centred in Denmark, this film explores the city’s back streets and dominant interior design. As the film develops, the location changes to Paris another city of extravagance and beauty. The idea that the lead characters are painters, is clearly reflected in the set and scene choices, reflecting beauty in all elements. The aesthetic of the film is enduring, demonstrating a well constructed and executed design process. 

This film is both unique in concept and identity; it is a screenplay that explores a subject that has never been so relevant and topical. The film, offers opportunity for thought and critique, exploring an ideology that discusses gender, sexuality and transgender identity. The sense of truth and sensitivity throughout is believable, offering a naturalistic interpretation that is dynamic. The brutal transformation denoted in the film is portrayed with commitment although, I often questioned the narrative build up to the transformation. The on-screen presence is engaging, illuminating characters that are acted with emotional investment and naturalistic quality. The narrative arc of the film is defined, showing events that are significant to the development of our protagonist. The story, for the most part, is enduring and keeps you engaged – but a slow beginning and early foreshadowed events, I believe disturbs the audiences interpretation of such events and therefore the narrative journey.

 The Danish Girl (2015) on IMDb