By Lei Landicho
The Danish Girl is a story of – not one – but two Danish heroines who found themselves in a situation beyond their control. One (Lili) resided in a falsely assigned body and later made a life-altering decision to break out from it. The other (Gerda) is her wife who, in the most extraordinary circumstance a woman could encounter in her life, supported and stayed beside her husband. The Danish Girl was supposed to be Lili. But it would seem Gerda shares with her the title. What should have been a harrowing tale of the first person to undergo sex reassignment has become the story of a woman’s unconditional love and irrepressible ache in witnessing and letting her husband disappear and re-emerge as a woman. The Danish Girl, it turns out, is Gerda.
Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) Wegener are visual artists living as husband and wife in mid-1920s Copenhagen. He paints landscapes while she paints portraits. In one painting, Gerda asked Einar to stand for her as model while donning a dress and posing effeminately. Einar, after then, became confused and started to wonder about his sexual identity. He dresses himself as a woman named Lili and comes to parties with Gerda. At first, Gerda merely regards the dress-up as a game until she saw Lili kissing a man. Einar confessed to his wife that something has changed within him and that he identifies as a woman. The news crushed Gerda, yet, she lingered till the end when Einar decided to have a sex reassignment and fully transformed into Lili.
After winning an Academy Award for Best Actor, Redmayne once again proved that he can transform into anything the film requires him to be. He did not, however, overtake his performance as crippled genius Stephen Hawking. Although Redmayne’s character has beautifully metamorphosed in The Danish Girl, his performance did not soar, it just fluttered. There is something about the second half of the film that gives Lili an unvarying emotion that translates into a less significant performance by Redmayne.
Vikander, on the other hand, has exhibited a wider range and fuller degree of emotion. Vikander’s Gerda remained to be Lili’s faithful shadow. She is reshaped constantly in every scene. She shows how small she can get while occupying second place to her husband in the art community. She, then, grows bigger with grief in each step that Lili takes towards reality.
Tom Hooper, the Oscar-winning director of The King’s Speech, has sculpted another human interest film which stars an A-list cast and features an elegant production. However, unlike The King’s Speech, this film is much more slow-paced and introverted. It is not that emotionally compelling as I expected it to be. Nonetheless, the story that The Danish Girl wishes to put forward is timely and necessary. The theme alone is interesting and thought-provoking – making us ponder on humanity’s limitless possibilities to believe in, define, and love ourselves and one another.