So today I had my oral exam for English. I was kind of nervous but it went really well, I think. As part of our preparation we had to write a film review. As I am simply in love with The Danish Girl, I decided to write about it. I am pretty proud of the review and thought I’d share it with you!


After working on the screenplay for over ten years and long talks with producers and different directors, Tom Hooper, known for Les Misérables and The King’s Speech, finally committed in making the film The Danish Girl. And it couldn’t be more perfectly timed. The transgender community and sex reassignment surgery are more high-profile than ever, so it was the task of the director to tell the story with delicacy, but also straight forward enough to make people believe and change their thoughts. In my opinion, mission accomplished.

Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe in their apartment in Paris

It tells the story of Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) who are both Danish painters, living in Copenhagen and enjoying a fun, loving marriage. One day, Einar poses for one of his wife’s paintings as a woman and he discovers feelings that had always been there. He finally admits that this is not his body and with the support of his wife he undergoes surgery. By doing so, he becomes a pioneer to the trans community. It’s about the journey of two people who love each other unconditionally and come to acceptance with themselves and the truth.

In a review, written by Robbie Collin for the Telegraph, is being referred to a scene in the film where Gerda is exhibiting her series of paintings from Lili. Einar is standing next to it, but of course no one notices he is actually the woman in the paintings. The review says “Art can see who Einar really is, mirrors just have a bit of catching up to do”. I think this captures the essence of the film. When no one else could see what Einar felt, his wife was able to paint it and make it a reality.

Tom Hooper and Alicia Vikander on set

First, I have to mention the Production Design. Without it, we only would have half a film, we wouldn’t have the emotions we are feeling now. Eve Stewart did an amazing job on capturing the emotions of the characters and reflecting them on their surroundings. Einar’s and Gerda’s apartment in Copenhagen was based on the paintings by Vilhelm Hammershøi. The high ceiling, the light blue walls and the soft northern evening light reflect their happy, carefree marriage in the beginning of the film. Especially how Stewart sort of plays with the way the light falls on the ceiling made me think of the artistic life they’re living.

Left: painting Vilhelm Hammershøi – right: Copenhagen apartment

The review in the Telegraph points out that the film is full of hidden depths such as in the beginning of the film where you can see how a wind-whipped lake deforms trees in its surface and makes new, beautiful shapes. This is a big contrast to the blurred, muddy images Einar gets when he looks at himself in the mirror and the windows in the city. And yet both reflections represent Lili.

What is often being ignored or just looked over is the cinematography of the film. The way of using the camera and different points of view to create just the right image for the viewers, to keep one’s interest. Danny Cohen often uses a focus to direct the attention of the audience to one particular point on screen. This way he is able to direct the viewers to one single detail and I think it is beautifully done. Something else that caught my attention was the fact that he raised the camera above Eddie’s eye line. This way he shows his features in a different and slightly more feminine way and that way it’s easier to follow the story and the transformation.

Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener in Dresden after the surgery

Costume design by Paco Delgado, hair and make-up by Jan Sewell and the extraordinary score by Alexandre Desplat support the film and the story itself perfectly. But it wouldn’t be the piece of art that it is without the amazing performance of the actors and actresses. Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard and Matthias Schoenaerts raise the film to another level.

(I referred a few times to a review from the Telegraph. This is the link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/the-danish-girl/review/ )

Lili Elbe – October 1930, Dresden

 

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