My mother made a New Year’s resolution to go to the movies more frequently and, as I have with many of her determinations, I decided to adopt it as well. Thus, I went to see The Danish Girl this weekend at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. I won’t digress from this review for too long to tell you how much I love going to see movies on my own, but suffice it to say that I indulged the pleasure twice this weekend and couldn’t have felt more restored by the experience.The Danish Girl is a beautiful movie. With Tom Hooper at the helm it could hardly be less so. When I first heard about the movie I knew three things: Tom Hooper was directing, Alexander Desplat was composing, and Eddie Redmayne was acting. All three of these people are thoroughly at the top of their game, never once disappointing me. All three deliver a beautiful movie. Yet, It is Alicia Vikander who surprised me and stirred the deepest emotions. Having known her from small parts in other films, such as Anna Karenina, I was unprepared for the depth of her talent.
The Danish Girl is the story of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener and their shifting relationship as Lili transitions from man to woman. As the film opens, Gerda and Einar Wegener are married painters who seem to enjoy a happy and productive marriage. They are attempting to have a child, Einar has gained wide recognition as a landscape painter, and Gerda is searching for the right subject as an artist. When her model is absent Gerda enlists her husband to sit for her dressed partly as a woman and this awakens something within him, starting him on the path to becoming Lili. Gerda finds her subject in Lili, painting her ceaselessly. The rest of the movie follows Lili’s decision to become fully a woman and Gerda’s struggle to support a decision that, while giving her husband the thing he truly needs, also robs her of him. Alicia Vikander is extraordinary and moving, showing simultaneous fragility and strength as she watches the life she’s built dissolve and the man and woman she loves slip away from her. The fact that all of this is based on a true story is vital. Lili’s diaries became the basis of a book on the subject and Lili Elbe has long been regarded as one of the first transgendered women. It is in the quiet details that Hooper, Vikander, and Redmayne bring out the beauty and sorrow of this story. As Einar first dresses in women’s clothes Hooper concentrates quietly on the beauty of a woman’s garments. Gerda’s every movement draws longing from Einar/Lily, something Redmayne conveys clearly. Redmayne deserves more of a mention than I’ve made of him so far. He will probably win another Oscar for this performance, definitely a nomination if nothing else. His portrayal of Lili is truly wonderful, bringing out the two characters with sensitivity and skill.
It is more than worth a watch.