Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Danish Girl

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Tom Hooper directs Eddie Redmayne in his Golden Globe and most likely second Oscar nominated performance as Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who became the first person to undergo ground breaking sexual transformation surgery in the early 1930s to become Lily Elbe, whose life she documented in the renowned memoir Man into Woman published in 1936.

The film features a pair of captivating performances and while the film either fails or succeeds on Redmayne's compelling playing, the film is helped by having such a strong female lead as that portrayed by Alicia Vikander who could well be Oscar nominated herself and would be a fitting reward for such a prolific year as hers bookended by two standout roles in first Ex-Machina and this, a role that could easily have been thrown away or lost when out up against Redmayne, but Bikander more than holds her own in such a difficult role.

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However, for all the good work on paper in terms of visual sumptuousness with great credit especially going to the set and production design, location scouts and costume designer Paco Delgado. the film is somewhat let down by a script that takes liberties with historical fact and becomes too hypnotised by an albeit brilliant central performances.  Lili Elbe in truth survived four gender reconstruction surgeries, but here she succumbs after the second due to a lot of blood loss.

This discredits the work by Warnekros (Sebastian Koch) and the script even dismisses the basis for the entire film, by only having Lily mention her diary in passing as a throwaway comment during a discussion with Gerda, it makes us think she must have written quite a lot between two surgeries
when she should be regaining her strength before the next procedure.

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Also lost is the historical truth that Gerda herself was a lesbian, this is crucially omitted from the screenplay and yet had it been included would have made more sense for Einar to feel this yearn for her hidden gender sexuality if Gerda was having sexual relations in their home and inevitably their bed; whereas we are led to believe Lily was always there beneath the surface just needing to be eked out of Einar by putting on some tights and dresses.

The film nonetheless is another convincing showcase for Redmayne and the strong work of Vikander, who could so easily have been lost in the shadows but instead is rightfully his equal as the poster can attest to.

The Danish Girl is a Working Title production and is a Universal Pictures release and is out now.

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