‘The Danish Girl’ Does Not Meet Expectations

By Elizabeth

Hey y’all I’m Elizabeth and I’m here to talk about a movie I saw last Sunday called The Danish Girl.

 The movie, released January 1st, dramatizes the true story of Einar Wegener’s transition into a woman named Lili Elbe, in Denmark during the early 20th century. The oscar-nominated film directed by Tom Hooper, was promised to be a beautiful, tear jerking tale of bravery and courage featuring excellent performances by it’s lead actors.

1920 painting

The Danish Girl was a gorgeous film, it had immaculately created costumes, stunning, elaborate and detailed sets, and an almost over-embellished score. Strangely these details did not have an altogether positive effect on the film, rather than adding to the plot, they distracted from the real story. The plot should have been fantastic considering how much story the filmmakers had to work with, but instead it was only good, its potential not fully realized.

While Eddie Redmayne’s critically acclaimed portrayal of Lili was extremely believable because he nailed the physicality of the woman, it didn’t offer much insight on how the character actually felt. It is safe to assume she was confused, scared, but happy that she was finally becoming whom she was meant to, but that’s just it: viewers had to assume, they weren’t shown. Maybe the only perfect component of this film was Alicia Vikander’s nuanced performance as Gerda Wegener- it was expressive, demonstrative and clearly showed how Gerda felt without being boring.

While this film did pass the Bechdel test (Lili and Gerda had conversed multiple times about art and sex changes), there was not a single actor of color in a speaking role. Also, even though a key theme in the film was Einar’s transition into Lili-the title role was played by a straight, cisgender man.

It does not take that much for me to cry during a movie, which made it even more surprising to me that I did not cry while watching The Danish Girl. Maybe it was because the plight of transsexuals was not new to me- last year three students in my 8th grade class came out as transgender, my best friend included. The existence of nonheterosexuals was never a big issue to me, I am straight, and lucky enough to have grown up in a relatively tolerant place, where being LGBT didn’t usually mean you were directly discriminated against, at least in my experience. But just because one is not explicitly discriminated against does not mean they are not exposed to implicit biases, prejudice, and unfortunate levels of ignorance. For instance, many of the places we visited last year on our New York trip did not possess a restroom my newly transitioned friend was comfortable using; it was then, when my then best friend was forced to “hold it” for most of our New York trip, that I realized (at least some of) the struggle of being transgender.

 But I am one of few who has made this realization, and unfortunately far too many people are ignorant of what it means to be transsexuals-to be born in the wrong body. Maybe this film, The Danish Girl, can help explain it to them, maybe it will reduce some of the hate.

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