The Danish Girl: the Art and the Self
The Danish Girl by Tom Hooper is a delicate and well crafted film, able to reach moments of pathos and profound introspection.
The Danish Girl by Tom Hooper is a delicate and well crafted film, able to reach moments of pathos and profund introspection.
In the 20s, in Copenhagen, a landscape painter, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), poses for his wife Gerda (an outstanding Alicia Vikander) who is painting a ballerina. So, he has to wear stockings and hold a dress in front of him. In that moment, his true identity starts coming out in the open: it is Lili Elbe, the woman he has always identified with, the person he is. Encouraged by Gerda, who makes her the subject of a series of successful paintings, Lili starts walking the streets of Copenhagen, and, thus, she starts her journey, with no way back.
Art is part of the narration, it is the metaphor through which Lili’s journey unravels.
At the beginning, we see the landscapes painted by Einer, his childhood memories, part of his personality.
Then, Einer sees herself for the first time as a woman, not in a mirror (the conventional means by which cinema shows such a discovery of the self), but in Gerda’s sketches. As if art was able to show and dig out in the open what she has always denied: the truth. Her true identity.
Later, the process it complete, and the painting acts as a reflection of Lili.
The mirror appears during the movie to give us a peek into Lili’s introspection. But the most striking scene figures Lili, a prostitute and her reflection in a window of a Parisian brothel. Here curiosity and pathos converge, creating a memorable picture, which gives us the measure of Tom Hooper’s ability behind the camera.
Criticized widely, not only because of Tom Hooper’s choice of a cisgender actor to play Lili Elbe, but especially because of a couple of details that do not correspond to the historical facts, this movie is the perfect example of a fictionalized story.
However, Lili’s story became fictionalized way before this movie, as it talks about other people too, people who haven’t had a voice for a very long time.
As a matter of fact, Lili’s story was first told in her diary, edited by Niels Hoyer and published after her death with the title Man Into Woman and, afterwards, in 2000, it inspired the book The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, upon which this film is based.
Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: Lucinda Coxon (screenplay), David Ebershoff (novel)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts