Like a silent creeper growing, The Danish Girl subtly, slowly, artfully, wraps itself around you, finally gripping you with indescribable emotions. You can relate to the characters in the film – the deep trouble is that you can relate to every character in the film. Aye, there’s the rub.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Inspired by the true story of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, The Danish Girl is as IMDB puts it is..
A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
So you get the gist. And the narrative does take you through that. But that is not what gets you. You don’t want to know what ‘happens‘ next, you want to know how he feels, how she feels, and eventually how they work it out.
As Einar Wegener goes through his realisation, his coming to grips with himself (or herself) his guilt, his shame and finally his acceptance, what unfolds is an emotional tugging of strings. You feel for him. You understand his pain, his dilemma and then you commend his strength. But you don’t realise you are him and you’re not him. You keep swinging between the light and the shadows as his little moments of joy are when he believes he is being ‘cured’ of his malady and his streaks of pain as he undergoes tortuous treatment after treatment trying to ‘straighten’ him out.
As Gerda rises from her disbelief, anguish, shock, and her consequent loneliness, (I want my husband back, she tells Lili), she finally comes to her acceptance. And that’s the most beautiful part of the film. She pleads, argues, persuades but finally comes to terms with what she has on hand. The understated underpinnings of unconditional love!
“I believe I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” Einar tells the doctor. “And I believe it too” says Gerda in support.
The Danish Girl movie poster states ‘ Find the courage to be yourself‘. And the film is about the extraordinary journey of the first transgender surgery and the courage of one man to openly admit he wanted to become a woman – an idea decades before his time. Einar Wegener is definitely the man with courage. But for me, the stoicism with which Gerda accepts the truth and supports him is remarkable. That is the courage one palpably senses in the film. It’s the triumph of love over everything, every thing. And that creeper stays enveloping your thoughts for a long long time.
Somewhere towards the end the film weighs on you but on the whole Tom Hooper’s direction has been extremely sensitive and understated. Both Eddie Redmayne as Einar/Lili and Alicia Vikander as Gerda have put in powerful performances. And so has the rest of the star cast.
Here’s a dialogue from what is probably the most powerful moment in the film from IMDb
Gerda Wegener: I need to see Einar.
Lili Elbe: Let me help, please.
Gerda Wegener: I need my husband, can you get him?
Lili Elbe: I can’t.
Gerda Wegener: I need to talk to my husband, and I need to hold my husband. Can you at least try?
Lili Elbe: I’m sorry.
It’s not your Friday night thriller obviously. Nor your run-of-the-mill romance. So make your choice. Of course, if you’re likely to watch it, go ahead and ask Netflix to oblige. If not here’s the trailer that quite depicts the sensitivity with which the film is made.