Movie Review: The Danish Girl

By  | 

MV5BMjA0NjA4NjE2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzIxNTY2NjE@._V1_SX214_AL_“The fact is I believe that I’m a woman.”

Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything,” “Les Miserables,” “My Week with Marilyn“) is documented as one of the first persons to receive a sex reassignment surgery.

In 1920, Copenhagen, Einar and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander, “Ex-Machina,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E“) are like any other young, married couple, in love.  Einar is a successful landscape artist and Gerda a portrait painter.  When a model fails to show up for painting, Gerda jovially persuades her husband to stand in with a women’s clothing.

It is at this moment that Einar feels… something.  Something indescribable that makes him feel closer to his true self, which he believes that he’s woman. What begins as one portrait turns to another, and to their delight, the portraits are high demand.  And what continues to be a game of pretend, like having Einar show up at party to fool everyone as a woman, Lili, turns into a an unsettling reality. It grows more thorny when a man (Ben Whishaw, “Skyfall,” “Cloud Atlas“) shows an interest in Einar/Lili and a childhood friend (Matthias Schoenaerts) comes into the fold.

The film, directed by Tom Hooper  (“The King’s Speech“), has a soft-focus feel with colorful palette, postcard-perfect scenery, impeccable interior and luxurious costume design.  But it would have connected deeper on an emotional level had it focused on Einar and his inner exploration.  Beyond the pretty makeup, dresses and poses, perhaps a flashback to his childhood, growing up shy and awkward, gradual struggles of self-identity, and self-awakening transition in a society that treats transgender as mentally ill.

While Redmayne bravely steps into a unique role, it is Gerda’s perpective and Vikander’s acting that stand out. She’s a complex character dealt with an unprecedented fate.  Strong-willed, loyal and playful, she’s pained and desperate, yet remains unconditionally supportive of Einar’s desires to fully become a woman, knowing that she would forever lose the love of her life.

Perchance “The Danish Girl” is not about Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, but a story about the ‘other’ Danish girl, Gerda Wegener.

Copyright (c) 2016.  Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *