So I have finally come round and watched The Danish Girl, its taken me a long time to watch it after it was released early this year and was nominated for a fair few Oscars, and won Best Supporting Actress for Alicia Vikander who played Gerda Wergener; the wife of Einar Wergener who became Lili Elbe, performed by Eddie Redmayne.
For those who haven’t seen the film, it tells the story of Einar Wergener, one of the first men to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The film centres on his marriage with Gerda and their turbulent relationship as Einar begins to believe he was born a woman. The film shows us how Einar takes interest in women’s lingerie, nightwear and stockings and the struggle he faces with being accepted into society as Lili. However, later on in the film when Gerda and Einar are in Paris and meet up with Einar’s childhood friend, Hans, do we begin to understand how young Einar used play with a female identity; he puts on his mother’s kitchen apron and then proceeded to kiss Hans. The way the film depicts Einar’s identity and his feminine feelings could have been developed a bit more I think. I would have liked to have seen more insight of what Einar was thinking (maybe through a voice-over narrative by Redmayne) as he plays with women’s clothing in the early stages in the film.
The way Redmayne inhabits Lili and performs her female gender, such as the moving of her hands, the touching of her neck and her stature are marvellous. Initially, Gerda does not seem perturbed by Einar’s desire to dress in women’s clothing in the early stages of the film; she wants him to put the clothes on, as the model who initially was to wear them turns up late. The film is set in 1926 during the ‘Roaring Twenties’ which was a time of social depravity in escaping from the norms of everyday life which was inhabited by the “Bright Young Things” by the tabloids during the period (See Stephen Fry’s film of the same name for more insight). As a result, she treated Einar’s inhabitation of Lili as a mere ‘game’, as being playful, as part of her paintings and work as an artist. However, until Gerda sees Lili being kissed by Henrik (played by Ben Whishaw), who we discover later on in the film is homosexual, that Gerda believes that Lili is here to stay and becomes antagonised that she is likely to lose her husband. Her sexuality also comes into question as we see her in bed with Einar wearing female clothing while they are having an intimate moment earlier on in the film. Towards the end of the film, we can see a cloth that has divided a bed, which she shares with Lili, as well as the way she proceeds to kiss Hans, that reassert her sexuality as heterosexual.
On a side note, I couldn’t help but notice how Redmayne seemed to embody an element of Annie Lennox’s identity from her “Why” video; I think it was the way he looked into the mirror and some of the poses he made while Gerda was drawing and painting him as Lili.
Overall, I felt the film was great, it was a great story to tell to the world and the search and struggle in defining one’s identity.