The Danish Girl (2015)

The Danish Girl is a good, but not great, film. The cast soars, but the film never quite fully comes together, with the script, direction, and pacing leaving something to be desired.

Redmayne and Vikander are both bloody fantastic actors, and do great work here. I think Vikander shines the brightest, but Redmayne had a very difficult role and did great work with it.

Identity dysmorphia surely deserved a stronger visual representation than this? I don’t mean the film itself, but the specific visuals in it. The themes are handled somewhat heavy-handedly at times (which I don’t think is a big issue when it comes to transgender women, as it’s a topic plenty of the audience won’t understand perfectly), but the actual depiction of Lily’s transformation is so clean and binary…I think it really misses the mark. I feel like a proper journey through Lily’s states was never really charted, and the film dealt in binary oppositions too much. It’s entirely possible I’m off the mark here, and I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I felt like many scenes could have been placed anywhere in the film and would have made sense, because Lily’s journey is expressed mainly in repetitive dialogues that don’t really progress much anywhere besides the first twenty minutes and last twenty minutes of the film.

The focus on reflections made sense, with “Einar” often catching a reflection and clearly wishing to be dressed as Lily. Yet the film works so much in stark oppositions, with “Einar” one end and Lily the other, that I felt the fluidity of her identity and transformation was lost. Perhaps this was 100% accurate to how Lily acted in reality, but I felt in the context of the film it was a confusing representation of the plight of a transgender woman.

Gerda’s character, while amazingly acted, confused me at times. I think around two thirds through the film she stopped being a strong character in her own right, and became more of an audience avatar. Her unsupportiveness seemed to come out of the left field and be more a mouthpiece for possible audience concerns than thoughts from a coherent character. I really struggled with Gerda’s character after a while.

I liked the film. I think the subject matter was moving. I found the performances excellent. But I think the film played it a bit too safe, not only in terms of the fairly pedestrian visuals, but in terms of explicit description of issues in Lily’s journey. More than anything else, I was frustrated by this film. I doubt it played it safe enough to satisfy the majority of theatre-goers, and it didn’t play it “unsafe” enough to really satisfy those more invested in the issues transgender women face, and have faced. If nothing else, the film is worth it for the fantastic performance of the two leads.

I give it two and a half canvasses, and a mirror.

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