Review: ‘The Danish Girl,’ About a Transgender Pioneer

27 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Eddie Redmayne and director Tom Hooper reunite for ‘The Danish Girl’.

“The Danish Girl” follows the lives of the artist couple Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), focusing on Lili’s transition from a man (as Einar Wegener) to a woman.The British actor was the darling of awards season earlier this year (15) thanks to his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the flick, and he picked up the best actor Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG awards.There’s no resting on Oscar laurels for Eddie Redmayne, who has thrown himself into yet another emotional and transformative role in The Danish Girl. Receiving the accolades at 33 made him one of the youngest ever winners and when all the hype had died down he did have a split second of doubt. “I had a moment of, ‘Oh f**k, I might retire tomorrow,” Eddie told Details. “I’m never going to do anything again’.

Delicately directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), the period drama (*** out of four; rated R; opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expands nationwide through December) features the Theory of Everything star as transgender icon Lili Elbe, the first person known to receive gender reassignment surgery. It’s a performance that’s actually more impressive than the one Redmayne won his Oscar for — playing Stephen Hawking — but he’s not the only standout in this moving love story, as Alicia Vikander proves her thespian mettle in a breakthrough role. The story begins before that transition, when Lili is living as a man, Einar Wegener ( Eddie Redmayne), and is married to Gerda Wegener; she’s played by Alicia Vikander. And at the end, I was like, ‘Let’s just take everything off, I’m just going to photograph you as yourself,’ ” says director Tom Hooper, who last directed Redmayne in Les Misérables. “It was just his own hair, minimal makeup, he was just wearing a slip.

In that case, the union of George VI and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was the foundation on which the tale of George’s elocutionary striving was built. Redmayne has different sides of the same character to play — first as Einar Wegener, a talented artist in Copenhagen circa 1926 alongside his wife, fellow painter Gerda (Vikander).

Einar becomes Lili Elbe, a celebrated trans pioneer. “I didn’t want it to be an epiphany,” says Redmayne of the scene. “It felt like she had been born, and society and herself had encased herself in this masculine exoskeleton. Here, the marriage is bohemian rather than aristocratic, but the stakes, while personal, are every bit as profound and consequential as the matters of state that drove the monarch to the microphone. In it he plays transgender woman Lili Elbe who undergoes pioneering new surgery during the 1930s. “Quite a few people have said, ‘You did Stephen Hawking, a physical transformation, and now you’re doing another one,’” he revealed. “But as an actor, you never go, ‘Oh, I need to do this.’ You ask yourself, ‘Is this story worth telling? Her portraits aren’t having the same success as his pastoral pieces, and when their ballerina friend Ulla (Amber Heard) can’t sit for Gerda’s latest work, she enlists Einar to stand in wearing stockings and a dress.

What became key to me was honoring Lili’s experience of transition, which was specifically defined by going through it in the 1920s, when the word transgender did not exist and the medical establishment did not accept the concept. The feminine wardrobe affects him in a startling way — which Hooper and cinematographer Danny Cohen show through close-ups of Einar’s face, as well as his hands feeling the material — and unlocks a new passion inside him. Soon, Gerda finds him wearing her nightgown underneath his masculine clothing, and Einar begins to embrace being Lili more and more. “It doesn’t matter what I wear,” he tells her. “When I dream, they’re Lili’s dreams.” Gerda’s story is heartbreaking but also extremely touching: Her portraits of Lili become the talk of the Paris art world as she remains devoted to her spouse, even as there’s less Einar and more Lili each passing day. The answer may lie not in the lead performances, which are extraordinary, but in the distancing insistence with which both the direction and Lucinda Coxon’s screen adaptation of David Ebershoff’s novel stress the significance of what we’re seeing. “You could be a first-class painter if you found the right subject matter,” a gallery owner tells Gerda. Gerda is a portraitist, while Einar’s landscapes — drawn from his childhood memories of the fjords and marshlands of Vejle, a town on the Jutland peninsula — have brought him a measure of fame.

As she grows closer to Einar’s childhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), Gerda never falters in being there for Lili when doctors deem him insane or perverse, and tries to help during his groundbreaking surgery. The supporting characters, from Ulla to Hans to Lili’s other confidante, Henrik (Ben Whishaw), aren’t nearly as strong as the movie’s primary couple, mostly because of a lack of screen time or effort to dig into each person’s motivations.

Much of the early dialogue seems like clumsy foreshadowing — Gerda at one point tells Einar, “I’ll never be as pretty as you” — yet there is also a needed sense of humor that grounds tense scenes, buoyed by Alexandre Desplat’s splendid score. When Gerda urges Einar to go as a woman to an artists’ ball—another case of a supposedly playful impulse fitting the narrative arc—she first teaches him to walk like a woman, and I’m sorry but I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering to the much more spontaneous scene in “Silver Streak” when Richard Pryor teaches Gene Wilder to walk like a black man. When Redmayne and Hooper convened for an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was also their first time sitting together for an interview.

Through a process that is by turns wrenching and exciting, Einar discovers that the man the world has always taken him to be is not the person he truly is. Watching Redmayne’s character blossom into her true self is remarkable, and the awkwardness getting there only helps make it more relatable to audiences who might not be on board with the subject matter initially. The artists’ perspectives were very important to me and I tried to internalize the way they saw the world and think about the way I framed the film to reflect that. His gift for understatement translates to a fascinating ambiguity that survives purple passages in which Einar/Lili is seen as a case of multiple personality disorder with melodramatic echoes of “Sybil.” Still, I’d like to put in a very good word for Ms.

She has shown glimpses of greatness this year in Ex Machina and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but the actress goes all in with Gerda, who keeps herself in check most of the time yet says it all with a single tear careening down her cheek. I know in a previous incarnation there had been talk of a woman playing the role, which is also equally valid because you’re saying Lili is a woman underneath.” Some, though, have questioned casting a man as a transgender woman. Teena Brandon ( Hilary Swank), a frightened and fearless young woman—no contradiction, as it turns out—is trying to pass in rural Nebraska as a young man named Brandon Teena.

And now people see it as an obvious film to have done, and I think that’s indicative of a wonderful shift that’s begun to happen in the culture where trans stories have become more acceptable.” “I was incredibly ignorant at the time. French vehicle brands Renault, Peugeot and Citroen — which ranked first, second and third — had an advantage in the study because average emissions data was evaluated without taking into account the number of cylinders in the engine or the fuel. He played Viola in Mark Rylance’s celebrated production of “Twelfth Night.” So he had a body of work of playing women before I approached him to play Lili.

In 2014, Renault retained its first place ranking, with 108 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km), ahead of Peugeot (110 g/km), which had previously been third behind the Korean Hyundai and Citroen (111 g/km), which had previously been tied at fourth. The RCMP issued a notice Wednesday asking the public for help identifying two males who may be able to assist with a current investigation into a “suspicious incident” reported in downtown Toronto in August. Two males were seen by a passerby “exhibiting suspicious behaviour” while on the John Street bridge near the Rogers Centre, on Aug. 31 around 3:30 p.m., according to the RCMP statement. The Suspicious Incident Reports system is used to collect information “on suspicious incidents that may be related to national security,” the RCMP said. The dialogue is carefully balanced between modern sensibilities and the imaginary language of Fancy Old Europe, which is really just English spoken in a variety of lovely and heterogeneous accents.

One male was wearing a green and white striped shirt with red trim, blue jeans, blue Adidas shoes with yellow laces, and had a watch, backpack and sunglasses. It’s all very impressive, as it was when he traced the progress of Stephen Hawking’s neurological illness in “The Theory of Everything.” But like that much-praised performance, this one does not take us where we need to go, which is inside the character’s mind and spirit.

Whether she is painting, smoking, embracing her husband or offering her hand to the woman who replaces him, Gerda is the one figure onscreen who seems to breathe the sharp air of reality.

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