Eddie Redmayne is once again eyeing some major awards this season with his role in The Danish Girl. Right off the tails of the success he had in 2014, where he won numerous awards for his portrayal of a young Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything, Eddie has taken on another inspiring, yet complex character. In The Danish Girl, Redmayne undergoes a massive transformation to help portray another true story on the big screen.
The movie is based on a book of the same name, written by David Ebershoff. It is a semi-biographical drama that tells the remarkable story of Lili Elbe, the first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Lili, who was born Einar Wegener, opted to transition into a female in the 1930s. At this time, the surgery was completely experimental and groundbreaking, as Lili quickly became world-renown after her journey became public.
The movie starts in the early 1920s, when Lili was still Einar and married to his illustrator and artist wife, Gerda (played by actress Alicia Vikander). Not too long into the movie, Gerda asks for a favor from her husband. She asks Einar to step in for a female model she was supposed to paint. Kindly, Einar agrees to do so and both he and his wife are shocked when the paintings of him as a woman are incredibly well received.
Thus, Gerda continues to paint her husband in more pictures, as it is becomes evident that Einar enamored people as the subject of Gerda’s art. However, Einar quickly begins developing an interest in his appearance as a woman and begins venturing out as his female persona, Lili Elbe. While at first it was intended to be just a playful thing, Einar realizes how much happier and fulfilled he feels when he is Lili.
Ultimately, Einar decides to become the first recipient of a male to female sex reassignment surgery. Fortunately, his wife Gerda was able to see how happy he was as a woman and supports her husband as he ventures on a new path in his life. However, after Einar transitions into Lili, Gerda realizes Lili is no longer the person she married. This causes a strain in their marriage, which is further emphasized when a childhood friend of Lili’s shows up and expresses romantic interest in her.
The movie is already making waves, as numerous of its actors have been nominated for a Golden Globe (amongst numerous other awards). This includes Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor and Alicia Vikander for Best Actress.
With the movie’s recent release, the studio has put out a bonus featurette titled, “Who is the Danish Girl?” In this promotional video, several cast and crew members talk about the true story that serves as the underlying premise of the film.
In the beginning, the video shows a scene where you can already see how devoted Eddie became to his character. Even as he is shown as still Einar (a man), he has a certain delicateness to him that is unique to his portrayal of Einar/Lili. Afterward, Eddie is heard explaining, “I read The Danish Girl and was profoundly moved by it. I found it a story like anything I have ever read. An incredibly passionate journey to find yourself, to be yourself.”
Following Redmayne is award-winning director Tom Hooper, who talks about Lili struggling with embracing who she truly was, while ridding away of the person she had been since birth, Einar.
Afterward Alicia Vikander, who plays Lili’s wife in the film, explains that back then there was even less understanding and references for the transgender community (as there wasn’t even the term “transgender” at the time). This emphasizes how truly remarkable it is that Lili’s wife decided to support her, as she made this life-altering, controversial decision.
Towards the end, a particularly powerful scene is shared where Einar (before the transition) tells his doctor, “I believe I am a woman.” His wife goes on to grab his hands in support and states, “I believe it too.”
While the film is getting its fair share of mixed reviews (currently 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and 5.6/10 on IMDB), it is tackling a topic that is unfortunately still highly controversial. However, from the trailer, it seems like it is telling an interesting story that is equally important for the world to hear. The film has a very similar feeling to The Theory of Everything, in terms of how it was filmed and the tone of it (dramatic, yet still playful). So while some people found The Theory of Everything slow and not particularly engaging, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was won over by Redmayne. Thus, it looks like this film is producing the same variation in the audiences’ reception. Most likely, some people will not be able to stop praising The Danish Girl, while others will question why it’s getting so many award nominations. I will most likely be part of the former, but of course, I will keep you posted.