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The Danish Girl: Movie Review by Mae Logue


The 2016 Oscar nominations are out with The Danish Girl earning nods in a few departments. Here is a review from a local student, Mae Logue.

Consider the phrase “I am entirely myself.” Whether you’ve heard it, read it, spoken it, or can’t imagine its message being true about yourself, surely you agree that it’s pretty powerful. The line comes from The Danish Girl, a recent Hollywood film about a married man who decides to undergo gender reassignment surgery in Copenhagen in 1926 so that he can physically and psychologically become a woman. The story is loosely based on one of the first known men to change his gender through modern medicine; Einar Wegener, the male version of himself, only feels his true personality when he is dressed and acting as a woman, his alter ego Lili Elbe.

To play a role like Einar/Lili, an actor first and foremost has to have great bone structure, of course, but also the ability to switch between roles with ease and capture the real feelings of such a deep character. Eddie Redmayne was great for the job, with his slight eye twitches, shy smile, and almost fragile demeanor.

Although Redmayne plays his double characters beautifully and makes you sigh in pity or shudder in amazement throughout the story, his performance and role in the film was really quite similar to his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, right down to the earnest, crooked grin and nearly inaudible voice. Both characters from both movies are incredibly complex, and Redmayne has proved his astounding talent, but a new personality for him is now necessary if he wants to express acting range.

Alicia Vikander is considered Hollywood’s new golden girl because of her intriguing beauty and pure artistry onscreen. Vikander plays Gerda, Einar’s wife who shares his burden and helps him find happiness amongst the judgment of their starving artist friends and suspicious doctors of the era. The actress is pretty new to the film industry, but she is bold and brazen with her performance in Danish Girl, securing her spot as one to be watched in coming years.

Gerda is also an intricate and difficult personality to capture, because even in modern times, many people don’t understand how it must feel to no longer be married to the person you thought you knew. In the film, Gerda suddenly finds herself unmarried and living with a woman whom she still loves but somehow doesn’t quite know. The real Gerda Wegener suffered a great blow to her emotional well being, and Alicia Vikander displayed her struggle through powerful acting.

The Danish Girl is a heavy drama, and perhaps a little more humor would have made it more appealing to its American audience. Many reviewers online found it to be “rather sullen,” “barely kept alive,” and “instantly forgettable.” To an extent, this reviewer would have to agree. The transgender movement is on the rise and awareness on the subject is steadily growing, but the film seemed to lump transgender people together with melancholy music and gazes out the window. However, the movie did do a great job of capturing the love between a married couple and the promise of staying by each other’s sides no matter what.

With gorgeous costumes, hair, and backdrops, Copenhagen in 1926 seemed utterly dazzling and the perfect setting for such a tragically true tale. The Wegener’s beautiful, tiny studio and budding artist lives made you sigh dramatically and wish you were born in the same epoch. Although a touch overdone, the special effects didn’t take away from the story, but rather enhanced it. The idea that two people in this historic milieu were suffering together through personal ties showed the courage of real people and how even in the midst of the groundbreaking innovations and creators of these times, it is possible to be different. The Danish Girl is a bit too excessive and downcast, but overall makes for a stunning and absolutely necessary film.

The Danish Girl is rated R, 119 minutes, and receives four stars **** from this reviewer.

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