The Danish Girl (2015)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
This film is a fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe, the transgender pioneer.
Successful artists in their own rights, young married couple Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) may not have much money, but they do love one another. Supportive of one another's artistic endeavors, one afternoon Gerda's model is late. She asks Einar to hold up a dress and pose for her, as a ballerina. His fingers run over the silk. He touches the stockings. Quiet passion infuses his movements, as he models for her. She teases him about it. They dress him up as a woman and take him to a party for a joke.
But something about it isn't funny anymore. Einar is drawn to it. Gerda first finds him in her silk dressing gown. Then the wig. And slowly, she begins to realize that her husband identifies as a woman. It strains their marriage, as she remains supportive but hesitant... and Einar slowly shifts into the persona of Lili. Gerda's paintings of Lili gather worldwide recognition. Everyone wants to meet her "cousin." And Lili decides that this is truly who she wants to be.
Films like this can be as controversial and interesting as their subject matter. For the most part, it's handled with tact (minus a few random nude scenes), focusing on the inner emotional dynamics of Lili's transformation, the change it wages in her relationship with Gerda, and the struggles of finding acceptance within society. It is heartbreaking because it has no happy ending; Lili's desire to be her "true self" causes her to rush into gender change surgeries, with horrific consequences. The film does not exploit or judge, but presents an empathetic depiction of Lili's struggles and invites us to share in the accompanying sorrows. The acting here is phenomenal; both leads well deserved their recognition and awards. Alicia in particular is far different here than anything else I have ever seen her in, and Redmayne moved me to tears.
The costuming, set design, and authentic period clothing were lovely. It doesn't try to either romanticize the subject matter or downplay it, and while it may not change anyone's mind on their opinions of transgender surgery, it does explore relevant themes and should provoke any Christians who see it to discussions about love, transgender equality, and what Christ's response to the controversy might be.
A woman is seen fully nude in a bedroom context several times (including her breasts, backside, and lower parts); we see her nude backside as she changes clothes; we see the start of a love scene; we see full nudity on a man, who tucks his penis between his legs and admires himself as a woman; a man admires a half-naked woman in a peep show (he copies her movements, and is upset when she runs her hand down to her groin); a transgender person is kissed and fondled several times by another man, before her sex change operation; many nude sketches and portraits.
GD is used twice; a handful of "Oh my God!"s; general profanities.
A transgender woman is mocked, taunted, then punched and kicked, by men.