The Danish Girl

  

The Danish Girl is a serious and affecting study of gender reassignment trapped in the body of an award courting populist drama. Unfortunately one side of its personality does not seem able to live comfortably with the other.

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What it gets right is its representations of the intense emotions that must be involved when people are going through these changes. Sadly there remains prejudice and ignorance around transgender women even today (and this film can only help with raising awareness) but in the 1920s, when the film is set, it was clearly so much worse. I feel as though the film plays due reverence to this though, showing the pain of being born in both the wrong body and the wrong time. 

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It also doesn’t shy away from how such confusion about your sense of self can make you selfish; this isn’t a story of just one person’s suffering. As true life couple Einar/Lili and Gerda Wegener, Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander both give brilliant performances and Gerda’s grief at losing the man she loves in a way that does not allow her to mourn is palpable. Vikander takes the arguably less showy role opposite Redmayne, as Felicity Jones did last year, and almost impresses more (as Felicity Jones did last year). 

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The problem is that the film is a little overblown in its mannerism and is stylised almost to the point of affectation. The design of the film is deliberately painterly which looks stunning and says much about the artifice of the lives we present to others but it takes something away from the honesty of the story. Another hurdle to get over is Redmayne who, strong as he is, never convinces as a female. They absolutely should have given this part to a transgender actor, or possibly even a cisgender woman, because as a rule transgender women do not look like men in dresses which is what we get here. It is as though the producers of the film have gone for high profile casting and Oscar nominations over authenticity.

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Is this one for the kids?
The BBFC has rated The Danish Girl 15 for scenes of a sexualised nature. Some of these are in service of the story and some less so. There is both male and female nudity.

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The Ripley Factor:
As indicated, some of the scenes of naked women are not entirely necessary but it is balanced across the genders. In fact you could assert that the nudity here is all about celebrating and coveting rather than objectifying the female form because this is the physicality the protagonist so ardently desires for himself. This argument holds up in places but not consistently.

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This film is clearly all about femininity and what it is to strive for this. Both of the key women in the movie, Gerda and Lili, are realistic characters who act with bravery and dignity. Amber Heard also features as a ballerina whose main purpose is to be graceful and pretty but she too is a rounded character. 

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