Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Eddie Redmayne, Adrian Schiller, Amber Heard, Emerald Fennell, Ben Whishaw, Pip Torrens, Matthias Schoenaerts, Nicholas Woodeson, Sebastian Koch Rebecca Root, Henry Pettigrew, Richard Dixon, Sonya Cullingford.
The Danish Girl has been a film in the making for so long, that has had so many stars attached to it that it began to feel as though it might never materialise. Yet time has a way of making cinema goers wait for what could be seen as a groundbreaking and informative film, and they don’t come much more groundbreaking than a story about one of the first recorded gender reassignment procedures on record.
Whilst The Danish Girl it is all about the relationship between the two main characters, it is surprising and welcome to see the supporting cast, those on the fringes of the story, make much of their time on screen, especially Adrian Schiller and Ben Whishaw who’s very presence offered a deviation to the narrative at hand and only heightened the personal anguish felt in both the private and social lives of Gerda and Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe.
It is to both Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne that the film works with the gentleness and appreciation befitting the world of the transgender and the people to whom whose lives are entrusted with the secrets and the desires that in many ways haunt and fill their waking hours with. The bravery shown in taking on the role of Lili Elbe by Mr. Redmayne frames the courage of the woman herself in the journey she undertook to become a transgender pioneer, to become the woman she always knew.
It is though Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener who really catches the acting eye in the film, as the wife of a person undergoing therapy, who gets to hear first hand from sceptical doctors that her husband is either suffering from perversion, insanity or schizophrenia, she portrays every emotion possible and her ability as an actor is only enhanced by the inner turmoil she marvellously brings to the screen and the face of a woman knowing she is effectively helping to kill her own marriage.
Whilst the film has more in common with the book written by David Ebershoff than by the true events in the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, the lack of substance behind Gerda’s own personal life and persuasions, her own needs and the fact that she was not present for a lot of the end of the life of Lili, it nevertheless paints a picture of heroic virtue which is hard not applaud.
A film in which many in the 21st Century might find it hard to believe that society was ever such shackled by its own limitations of thought that they could not see the damage being done in the early treatment of people who identify as transgender, a film that is a work of absolute art.
Ian D. Hall