The Danish Girl

Coping Gay Men in Copenhagen

If I was to take a wild guess at what percentage of people truly know what it’s like to believe they are the wrong gender; I would estimate less than 5%. Sod it, let’s say it’s exactly 5% for the sake of argument.

I consider myself to be pretty firmly in the other 95%. I don’t know how it feels to be trapped in your own body and I have no desire to be a different gender no matter how cool it would be to have boobs, real boobs, not my flabby man ones!

What I need and what I think 95% of people need from The Danish Girl is something relateable, something to latch on to that answers the golden question: why. Perhaps this is portrayed as an itch you just can’t scratch or some sort of unquenchable obsession or addiction that lives with you every second of every hour.

No matter how this explanation is provided I need it spelled out so simply that even a brain-damaged rock troll could understand it. I need a really good, thought-provoking, script.

What I don’t need is a snivelling performance where the main character looks about to cry at any second; it’s the sort of look a baby gives you when they fall over and don’t know whether to weep or to continue on their mission to smear jam on the TV.

I suppose Redmayne has to be praised for an unwavering physical performance where he even bears all in front of the camera. I hate to use this word but it is a ‘brave’ performance and nothing proves this more than a scene that involves him tucking back his tackle to make a man-gina.

To me though, this became quickly irrelevant thanks to his role being wildly over-acted and the delivery of lines often being so wet they could be used to put out forest fires.

Redmayne isn’t helped by the script that provides very little contextual insight into the mind a trans-gender person and the turmoil that they must be going through ESPECIALLY when the person in question is the first person to attempt sex reassignment surgery.

Instead of being what could have been a vital study of the human psyche the script potters down melodrama road choosing instead to focus on the breakdown of a couple’s marriage to the background of gender politics. Important insights end up being reduced to hollow statements along the lines of “I need my husband back” and “I can’t do that”.

Although the film misses an opportunity it does start promisingly with Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) posing as Lili – his transsexual alter ego – for his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) and then ultimately coming to terms with the realisation that he enjoys cross dressing. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Einar is becoming more obsessive about cross-dressing and even starts to find fancy with the male gender.

As we near the end of the film it becomes clear that Einar has always had these sexual leanings yet almost every moment of the film until this point has told you otherwise. The first half of the film is a coming-of-age or rather a coming-of-gender film only to be written off by his desire to be a woman supposedly existing ever since he was a child.

I can’t understand why Einar’s psyche wasn’t explored further, especially since the visual aspect doesn’t shy away from what is hard to watch, yet the dialogue is a dainty as Lili.

Perhaps The Danish Girl stays true to the book of the same name but the more I watched the more I found myself empathising with Einar even less than I do with grated carrot.

By the end of the film Einer has the first of his two operations and the film draws neatly to a close after an hour and a half. At least that’s what should have happened. In reality you are dragged along for another, punishing, final 30 minutes of drudgery where the film outstays it’s welcome.

It’s not even possible to take much joy from the early 1900s Copenhagen setting because there is only ever 1 main street that is shown, the rest of it being situated indoors but hey, at least the costume department did a great job of selling you on the time period.

Ironically, like Einar, this film is one thing but should have been another. It’s a soppy melodrama that should have been a hard psychological study. It’s a story of marriage rather than a story of gender and Redmayne overshadows his own physical performance with himself… Simply by being a man trying too hard to be a woman.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Brave performance
+ Decent costume design

– Overacted
– Too Long
Difficult to relate to the characters

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