The Danish Girl: Film Review
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard
Director: Tom Hooper
If there is any justice in the world, The Danish Girl will be up for Oscar glory later this year - but not for the reasons you'd expect.
From the director of The King's Speech and Les Miserables, this tale of transgender artist Einar Wegender (Redmayne) and his wife Gerde (Vikander) is as much a study of a marriage and of love, as a story of one man's discovery of his true nature.
Set in Copehagen in the 1920s, Einar is a successful artist and his wife lives in his shadow. Despite the two talents in the relationship, only one has the spotlight - and while Gerde does her best to nurture this talent, it's clear she is frustrated. When a model doesn't come in for a sitting one day, Gerde asks Einar to throw on her costume and sit for the portrait; but what she doesn't bargain on is that Einar re-discovers a long dormant penchant for the clothes and struggle within.
Initially thinking Einar's dressing up is to reinject some spice into a marriage under strain due to lack of children, Gerde supports it - and even benefits from painting his picture. But it soon becomes clear that Einar, who is now masquerading as Lili, has other plans, which could signal the end of their marriage.
Undoubtedly a prestige picture which ticks all the boxes and sensitively handles the subject matter, The Danish Girl is a curiously emotion-free film, lacking any of the beats of anything other than pure Oscar-bait material.
Redmayne impresses as Einar / Lili and there will be many who are transfixed by his androgynous transformation but with trembling lips and lingering cameras, his performance is a more showy one than you'd perhaps expect - or in many ways, hope for. That's not to detract from the subject matter, but its portrayal is more about providing a platform for Redmayne, rather than letting his work on the story and character stand out. Shots of Lili studying affectations within crowds seem shoe-horned in rather than naturally given room to breathe.
In contrast, Vikander deserves some Oscar love for her role as Gerde; hers is a turn of remarkable complexity, of a love so deep and supportive that its final destination is nothing short of magnificence. She impresses with a performance which is steeped in subtlety and whose complex reactions and inner conflict is more suitably portrayed as her muse reveals herself and her talent begins to soar. The conflict is here in the film as she struggles to find her own inspiration at the cost of the loss of her marriage, and Vikander conveys it wonderfully.
The problem with The Danish Girl is while it's beautifully shot, wonderfully framed and perfectly acted, it's all a little stiff, and consequently lacking some of the power it should inevitably wield in its final frames. Preferring to go through the tropes and trials, the film emerges as some what of a muted piece that does what it's supposed to but lacks the vision to accompany and deliver its journey.