The Danish Girl (2016)

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As if it were a classic painting itself, this dramatic biographical feature looks beautiful. Each and every frame could be viewed like a canvas and with sublime performances within the moving artwork this film does more than enough to showcase talent and emotion.

Copenhagen 1926 sees married painters Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) each dealing with the blossoming of Einar’s interest in female fashion, mannerisms and the truth that he sees himself as a woman but trapped in a male body. She wants to become the full embodiment of Lili meaning becoming the first patient for gender reassignment surgery.

Tom Hooper is a director that can certainly be seen as knowing how to capture beauty and artistic grace in his pictures. ‘Les Mis’ may have been about a filthy and drastic revolution but it still swept with epic classical proportions. This film suits him more I feel as we explore the very current themes of gender awareness and self in a historical and very European setting. Hooper directs this Oscar baited film with an eye for keeping in a charm and warmth about a life-changing decision that could have been overly soppy or cold. There’s a fluid pace and calmness to the story being told and with Hooper at the helm we can take in every detail of he Wegener’s lives.

Of course, it isn’t all fluid pace and plain sailing as this film struck up plenty of controversy in casting heterosexual and male actor Eddie Redmayne to play a transgender part. People naturally complain about anything and this is ridiculous because having a talented actor like Redmayne is a mainstream choice but it does open doors for the community and also will get people that may never wish to see a film like this to plonk their behinds down at the cinema and appreciate the messages and theme of this movie. Obviously it’d be great to have more female parts, African American roles and transgender actors but in Redmayne’s capable hands this never feels cheap, shocking or forced. It’s a choice that could eventually help open eyes to the larger picture of better options for people of all genders, ages and races.

Lucinda Coxon pieces together a great screenplay from the book by David Ebershoff, both works are fictionalised and you can feel some more cinematic ideas that don’t necessarily feel like they happened but movies do take liberties for big screen purposes and Coxon knows that the key ingredient within this big theme of gender is the relationship between the artists. That for me comes across as the more interesting angle throughout than the much more talked about focus on a man changing to a woman.

The film looks gorgeous, settings and scenes really help the plot come alive, that European atmosphere adds a passionate quality and with Danny Cohen’s cinematography it’d be fair to see the movie up for that particular nomination. I loved the look of the fashion, the paintings and that delicious shot of yellow stoned houses lining a decreasing street stood out at just how much the makers of the film clearly cared about how this movie comes across. On top of that, the music by Alexandre Desplat truly helps the film sound artistic and stunning.

With Tom Hooper’s knack for making scenes last and having a patient touch over the grandeur of his directing, it makes the film feel long, his glossy adoration making it lull at times. The main weakness in a film that could have cut more in a story which we know where it’s heading. The relationship of the painting pair was shown but I wanted more of it because that’s the strongest element. Also by the end it does become mildly sour in being consistently prim and proper in the way it presents everything.

Eddie Redmayne is a blistering performer to watch, he laps up character and more impressive than dialogue delivery is his physicality which he showed off as Stephen Hawking and again here as he brings a delicate power to playing Lili. Alicia Vikander for me is the stronger in the film though, I felt her portrayal of the story was more engaging and interesting as she both struggles and accepts her husband’s changes. Vikander flourishes and astounds with heart and oomph as she plays opposite Eddie. Matthias Schoenaerts is a confident and good enough secondary character in a role that is introduced late but still makes a different in the world we see.

It may be long and less impacting than I expected; the subject matter not being overly transforming, but with two astonishingly captivating performances and a beauty running throughout, this film is a solid watch that deserves praise.

7.5/10

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