Copenhagen, 1926. Danish artist, Gerda Wegener, painted her own husband, Einar Wegener (Redmayne), as a lady in her painting. When the painting gained popularity, Einar started to change his appearance into a female appearance and named himself Lili Elbe. With his feminism passion and Gerda's support, Einar - or Elbe - attempted one of the first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, a decision that turned into a massive change for their marriage, that Gerda realized her own husband is no longer a man or the person she married before. A childhood friend of Einar, art-dealer Hans Axgil (Schoenaerts), shows up and starts a complex love triangle with the couple.
Eddie Redmayne could easily upset DiCaprio and win back-to-back Oscars after an amazing turn as the first man to undergo a sex change.
Redmayne, who totally convinced us he was Stephen Hawking in his in The Theory of Everything, backs up that Oscar-winning performance with another chameleon role. The 34-year-old takes a difficult almost twin role (that isn’t just a case of surviving a winter) and makes us totally believe in it. Swedish stunner Alicia Vinkander is on a role after Ex Machina, and deserved a Best Actress nomination rather than just a supporting one.
Hooper does great work handling the sensitive subject matter and makes the trials the couple face compelling. The reason why things click so well is that it’s a bit of a reunion for the Les Miserable team. Hooper keeps it in the family with production designer Eve Stewart (who’s nominated a fourth time), costume designer Paco Delgado (also up for an Oscar), cinematographer Danny Cohen and Redmayne. And boy do they make this period piece look absolutely sumptuous. Cohen (who also lensed the recently released Room) does a stellar job drawing you into the finer details, and the slight movements and looks of Redmayne.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, the film is sometimes a hard watch and a little heavy-handed. And even though it’s based on a fictionalized account of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe some of the changes to the truth make it a little sanitised for Hollywood.
Featuring great performances from Eddie and Alicia, and some absolutely sumptuous scenery and costumes, The Danish Girl will hopefully get some Oscar recognition it deserves.
DVD Releases: 15th May 2016
Rating: M – Contains nudity and sex scenes
Duration: 120 minutes
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard
Director: Tom Hooper (The Kings Speech)
The movie is based on the novel The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, which is a fictionalized account of the life of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, not an actual biography. The author changed so many elements of Einar Wegener's story that the characters in the book are entirely fictional, no other character in the novel has any relation to an actual person, living or dead. Historical accounts claim that Gerda Wegener was lesbian and that she preferred Lili's femininity over Einar's masculinity and that they had an open relationship. Gerda lived openly as lesbian when she lived in Paris with Lili. The love story portrayed in the novel and in this film is fiction, Gerda and Lili didn't remain close after their marriage was annulled. A more accurate source of information is Lili Elbe's autobiography, "Man into Woman". Niels Hoyer is listed as the author, but that is a pseudonym for Ernst Ludwig Hathorn Jacobson, Lili's editor who assembled her letters, diary entries and dictated material to form the book.
The true origin of Gerda Wegener (Gerda Gottlieb Wegener Porta (15 March 1886 - 28 July 1940)) (not to be confused with German makeup artist Gerda Wegener) is Danish, not American. The novelist changed her name to Greta Waud and her origin to American and California-born to please the American readers. Both the novel and the film omitted that Gerda was lesbian or at least bisexual and had an open relationship with Einar/Lili that allowed her to live as a lesbian - the accounts suggest that they were more like sisters than spouses or lovers, but in the film she is portrayed as a straight, faithful and suffering wife who never left her husband. Gerda Wegener's famous Lesbian Erotica paintings are never mentioned in the film.
Einar and Gerda's marriage officially lasted 26 years (1904-1930), they got married at 22 and 18 years old, respectively. Lili was 47 years old when she got the sex reassignment surgery and died at 48, due to organ rejection after a uterus transplant. Eddie Redmayne was 33 when he shot the film, while Alicia Vikander was 26. The film only mentions that Einar and Gerda had been married for 6 years. Gerda Wegener was 44 during the events portrayed in the film and died at the age of 54, due to a heart attack.
Alicia Vikander's Oscar Nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, instead of Leading, was seen by many as a critical category fraud, as her character, Gerda, has more screen time and more dialogue than Eddie Redmayne's character, Einar/Lili. However, Redmayne was nominated for Best Lead Actor at the Academy Awards. Distributor Focus Features decided to campaign for Vikander as supporting actress because they thought it would increase her chances of winning the Oscar. Vikander has refused to comment on the debate.
Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for The Theory of Everything (2014) early during the filming of this picture. Redmayne was granted a weekend break to attend the Academy Awards ceremony and ultimately accept his award in person, after which he flew back to the set and resumed filming that week.
The paintings in the film were done by the film's production designer Eve Stewart and by British artist Susannah Brough. The film's paintings weren't exact replicas of Gerda Wegener's work, they had to be to adapted because they didn't look like Eddie Redmayne. The original portrait of ballerina Ulla Poulsen Skou, was also altered to resemble Amber Heard's face.