Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

March 10, 2016

The Danish Girl, a movie review and spoiler alert

Can you imagine what it would be like not to know who you truly are?

The movie, “Danish Girl,” is loosely based on a true story about one of the first transgender transformations. It is, by far, a dark and deep drama, beautifully done, but at times hard to watch. Definitely not for all audiences.

The story takes place in Denmark during the 1920s. At the opening, we are introduced to a very talented painter, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), who is married to another painter, Einar (Eddie Redmayne). Their marriage is filled with passion and it is clear that Gerda loves both her husband and her painting.

A painter is not a painter until he/she sells their paintings and Gerda has yet to successfully sell hers. In one of those life changing moments, when her model doesn't show up for a sitting for her new project she is working on, Gerda asks Einar to fill in. In one of the many surreal moments, we watch as Einar slowly slips on the silk stockings and ballet slippers. Then, Gerda loosely drapes the delicate ballet dress on her husband.

We see the beginnings of the transformation of Einar as he caresses the delicate fabric of the dress. In the expression in his eyes, it is clear he is experiencing transforming feelings and emotions he has never encountered before. Emotions that we later understand have been locked up within himself since childhood. At first, Gerda feels the subtle changes in Einar as a turn-on, as she discovers the feminine side of her husband.

When Gerda is invited to a ball, Einar refuses to go. Just for fun, Gerda convinces him to dress up as a woman. In preparation, she finds a dress, shoes and a wig, transforming Einar into “Lilly.” Einar does a lot of hand-twisting as he practices how women do things, and also, crucially, how they do nothing. It is fascinating to watch the delicate inclinations of his head as he tries to mimic the feminine.  

At the ball, no one catches on to who “Lilly” really is, and Gerda and Einar pride themselves in having fooled everyone. When a young man becomes quite fixated on “Lilly,” things become complicated. The young man tries to kiss “Lilly” and Einar is taken aback, not sure what to do.

If he refuses the kiss, his true identity could be in jeopardy. After the kiss, it is clear that, as “Lilly,” he felt something changing and begins to realize his femininity is trapped within his man body. Now, even more confused, Einar falls deeper into his role as “Lilly.”

Gerda begins to become upset with the continuing transformation of Einar into “Lilly.” In response, she creates some of her best work, using “Lilly” as her model. Her paintings are enthusiastically received and she is finally on her way to becoming a successful painter. 

Gerda reaches her ultimate dream. Her paintings are being displayed and sold in European galleries and she and “Lilly” move to Paris. But, once there, she loses her husband as he has completely evoked his feminine emotions and is “Lilly.” A childhood friend of Einar’s, art-dealer Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), enters the picture and starts a complex love triangle with the couple.

We have read tales of making a deal with the devil. In one of Leo Tolstoy’s short stories, a greedy Russian tries to buy fertile land on banks of the Crimea. The devil persuades him to exchange his soul in return for all the land he can walk in a circular pattern in a day. Of course the man dies of exhaustion by the end of the day.

It is not hard to compare this to Gerda trading her husband for the fame of her paintings, but at the same time, deeply regretting it. Both Gerda and Einar come to terms that “Lilly” is here to stay. Because of “Lilly,” Gerda has become a famous painter. Because of “Lilly” Einar has found who he truly is.

The heart wrenching reality is that Gerda loves her husband even now that he is no longer her husband. When you love someone you let them be free. And, Einar has even more at stake. With his feminism passion and Gerda's support, Einar attempts one of the first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, which sadly, has disastrous results.

In the final scene, Hans and Gerda travel back to Denmark to a high ridge with four trees overlooking the ocean; a scene depicted in many of Einar’s own paintings. As the wind catches Gerda’s scarf, Hans reaches to grab it, but Gerda stops him. They watch in awe as the scarf floats gently on the breezes, free at last, just as “Lilly” is.