Dir: Tom Hooper (2015)
Academy Award winner Tom Hooper‘s latest handsome, formalistic drama examines the true life struggle of Lili Elbe, formerly Einar Wegener, a pioneering transgender painter from Denmark who became one of the first gender reassignment patients in the 1930s. Eddie Redmayne and Elicia Vikander play Einar and Gerda; Jobbing artists and husband and wife. Gerda, perhaps slightly jealous of her husbands greater success, soon turns her career around when Einar shows a penchant for the finer fabric of her female subjects; The painter/muse paradigm is upturned.
At first Einar hides “Lili” and the couple play out lite weight fantasies behind closed doors, painting and swapping negligee. The same doors are kicked down (or creaked slowly open) when the couple decide to see if Einar will pass as a woman in a lavish but stilted social occasion. When a criminally wasted Ben Wishaw‘s gentleman catches Lili’s eye The Danish Girl sets its sails for stormier seas and Gerda and Einar’s relationship attempts to weather the storm while Hooper attempts to weather the script. Interest is peaked when a childhood friend of Einar’s (Matthias Schoenaerts) arrives; Shocked by his friend and drawn to Gerda.
Redmayne bravely and competently takes on Einar’s journey but soon enough Vikander begins to steal every scene; Her worry, acceptance and approaching loss of the man she loves seems to overpower the transgender focus of the film. Not to take anything away from Elbe’s importance in the trans world; Here they just seems so evenly weighted where perhaps a sharper look at Einar in the films first half might have yielded a better emotional finale.
The director’s eye for bare elegance runs all the way through The Danish Girl; It is beautifully lit and luminescantly shot by Danny Cohen, from the spare interiors of Einar and Gerda’s studio to the coloured streets of Copenhagen and beyond. It looks the part and Hooper certainly has an important and diverse story to hang on his visual ticks on but all this falls short of the intensity, raw honesty and prescience of its themes especially when a cringing and obvious final scene lands with a hilarious thud.