THE DANISH GIRL
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: Tom Hooper
Written by: Lucinda Coxon, from David Ebersoff’s book
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 11/18/15
Opens: November 27, 2015
On some levels, the U.S. has been moving rightward as unions have been more or less destroyed, the middle class losing out while the super-rich gaining at the expense of everyone else. On another level, our country is moving to the left, dating back to 1865 when former enslaved people were freed and then given the right to vote, in 1920 when states could not deny women the right to vote, more recently when the vote was extended to 18-20-year olds. As though just yesterday, the nation has become more accepting of gay rights and gay marriage, though the American people’s feelings on transgender politics have not been thoroughly examined. A major issue pushed by the LGBT movement, trans-genderism (as opposed to trans-gender dressing) did not pop up the day before yesterday but became an issue as far back as 1930 when a surgeon in Germany performed the first and thereby a risky series of operations that changed a man’s sex by removing his male parts and constructing a vagina with ovaries. The story behind that initial procedure is studied in David Ebersoff’s book, “The Danish Girl” (which you can pick up from Amazon for ten bucks, presumably motivated by this movie) and made into a film by Tom Hooper using Lucinda Coxon’s literate script. The director, who came from a privileged London background and has made prestigious, classic films like “Les Misérables” and “The King’s Speech,” now tackles an issue which has drawn some attention in our own time, and has done such a remarkable job, helped by Oscar-worthy performances from both principal actors, that the sometimes lightly comic but mostly easy-to-take romance should attract a wide audience. This is happily no Masterpiece Theater adaptation. In fact the English dialogue is quite clear, distinct, and not at all difficult to follow.
In his best performance to date, Eddie Redmayne, known for playing Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” Marius in “Les Misérables,” and Thomas Babington in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” is well suited for a role for which Nicole Kidman had been considered. Given his features, principally his thick lips, pale complexion, and long eyelashes, he is able to merge into the role of a woman well before the surgery that actually changed his gender to such an extent that he able to pass for a woman even among some of his friends—though two thugs in Paris beat him up because thought of him as a man who is simply dressing as a woman. He is married to Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), whose bi-sexuality is barely hinted upon, as in scenes of intimacy between her and Einar (Eddie Redmayne) are passionate enough. Both are painters: she does portraits while his canvasses are of landscapes. There is enough interest in Gerda’s work to allow her to travel from her home city of Copenhagen to Paris to exhibit her works, which sell rapidly to Parisian society.
Talk about an identity crisis! Einar believes that God made him a woman and that he is stuck with a body that he hates so much that he is willing to risk all as a guinea pig for Dr. Warnekros, who reminds him of the risk of the two surgeries. (In real life Einar, who changes his name to Lili, had four operations.) Lili’s wife Gerda loves Einar/Lili to such an extent that she stays with him after his transformation, even travels with him to Dresden where the procedure is performed.
Viewers in the audience may be breathless not so much when thinking about what a man must go through to resolve the greatest of possible identity crises, but in taking in the superlative performances of both principals. They are each at the top of their game and when they are together, their chemistry is so palpable that you might consider that both may win accolades and awards right up to their potential nominations for Academy awards. “The Danish Girl” is a must-see, convincing to such an extent that even Ben Carson and Donald Trump, taking time to watch the film, would consider contributing to LGBT.
Rated R. 120 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A-
Acting – A
Technical – B+
Overall – A-