Since Malta was celebrating Pride Week a few weeks ago, I thought it best to review 3 different LGBTQ+ films over a total of 3 articles.
The Danish Girl, a 2015 film directed by Tom Hooper is a biographical romantic drama set in the 1920s. The film is an adaptation of David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel, The Danish Girl, which was inspired by real-life Danish painters: Lili Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne and Gerda Wegener, played by Alicia Vikander.
Lili Elbe is said to be the first transexual woman documented to have undergone experimental surgeries to complete her transition.
The plot mainly follows the married couple, Lili and Einar’s, who live through three different countries: Denmark, Paris and Germany.
The film opens in Copenhagen and the LGBTQ+ aspect of the film quickly shines through when Gerda asks Einar (Lili) to pose, dressed as a woman for her painting. Posing for Gerda triggers Einar to start struggling with gender dysmorphia and the film follows his emotional and physical turmoil. Besides Einar’s struggle, the plot also focuses on their marriage and how this evolves and changes through Einar’s transition.
Since the film is set in the 1920, an era in which society was not yet accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, the viewer also witnesses Einar’s encounter with psychologists in Paris. While seeking help he is almost committed to an asylum. After, Lili and Gerda meet with a more open-minded psychologist, Dr. Kurt Warnekros, through their friend Hans, who proposes the option to have the first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.
Relocating to Germany to proceed with the surgery, Lili unfortunately dies due to complications, leaving Gerda and Hans with Lili’s memory forever.
The film itself received mixed criticism. Tom Cooper, known for his critically acclaimed The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, was criticised for the film’s slow progression. In addition, the casting decision regarding the main role—that of Einar/Lili, caused controversy within the LGBTQ+ community due to hiring a cisgender actor, Redmayne, for a transgender role. The historical inaccuracy also caused an uproar, since it was actually Dora Richter who underwent the first gender reassignment surgery.
However, the actors were heavily praised for their acting with Vikander winning an Oscar for best supporting actress and Redmayne also having been nominated for a Golden Globe.
The film was nominated for a total of 23 awards and the box office revenue was $64.2 million worldwide. The overall ratings are: 6.61/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.1/10 stars on IMDB.
Although at times slow paced, I would personally still recommend this film to anyone who would like to learn more about Lili Elbe. Even though at times historically inaccurate, this film could be the stepping-stone to searching and learning more about her real-life struggles and art.
Final Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ of 5
What to watch if you liked The Danish Girl
- Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
- Frida (2002)
- Carol (2015)
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