The Danish Girl

The beauty and truth in Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl will not be lost on those who can imagine the pain of being absolutely certain about something that no one else can see. The film, based on the novel by David Ebershoff, stars Eddie Redmayne as Einer and Alicia Vikander as Gerda, a young Danish couple, both painters in the 1920s, who discover his peculiar secret after she asks him to pull on a pair of hose and lady's slippers so that she can finish the portrait of an absent model. What at first appears to be just a fetish for women's garments -- a game for the young lovers -- soon blossoms into his awakening as a woman in a man's body. Then begins a journey that ends with his undergoing dangerous surgery to align body and soul. Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Miserables) is far too intelligent to give this story, which is based on the life of an actual transgender pioneer, over to melodrama and anachronistic political pronouncements. It is firmly rooted in the world of the early 20th century with all of its ignorance and inhumanity. In fact, the film has a reverential tone -- set by its sets, music and pacing. It's all lovely but, alas, rather joyless. None of this is the fault of Redmayne or Vikander, who bear Einer's transition to Lili in different but utterly believable ways. Early in the film, Hooper stages a scene with Einer venturing out as Lili to a party with Gerda. At the party, Lili unwittingly draws the attention of a young man (Ben Whishaw) whose proposition to the not quite beautiful and mysterious Danish girl is pitched perfectly, masterful and elegant, which makes the scene -- and the film -- all the more heartbreaking. Highly recommended.


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