'The Danish Girl'
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw
A biopic adapted from David Ebershoff's book of the same name, on the exploration of self and sexuality by Danish artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) who eventually underwent the world's first gender reassignment surgery in the early 1900s, while in a strongly bonded marriage to Gerda (Alicia Vikander), an equally talented portrait artist, this film is a winner all the way through.
Tom ('The King's Speech') Hooper helms this beautifully poised and perfectly structured drama about a man finding his truer self in the woman he dresses-up to be. While Einar slowly and steadily gains strength and gumption as Lili, it's for his empathetic and loving wife, Gerda, to come to terms with his change and help him through the tough choices he must make in order to stay true to his real self. While their marriage begins to get strained, the love Einar and Gerda hold for each other finds maturity in the expression of compassion and empathy for each other's plight and what they must do to move on in life.
Gerda Gottlieb (Alicia Vikander) is not as appreciated or celebrated as her husband - and that's probably because she is a woman. But when she changes her specialty from portraits to nudes of one particular woman, her work begins to find fame. The irony though is that her model is her husband (in drag) who after one sit-in for an unfinished portrait of a ballerina (Amber Heard) begins to feel more at peace in the feminine form. While Einar-turned-Lili loses his interest in art, Gerda blossoms as an artist of repute. And the conflict therein is nuanced within the husband and wife positioning that gets neutered when Einar begins consciously cauterizing all illusions of maleness while still in a marriage that ceases to fit in with accepted social norms. Hooper's biggest triumph yet, this film gradually draws out the truth from the realms of fantasy while invigorating the viewer with exquisitely beautiful frames and definitive moments of palpable emotion.
This film was slotted to be directed by either of the two - Tomas Alfredson or Lasse Hallstrom, and Nicole Kidman was penciled in to play Lili but thankfully it fell into Tom Hooper's hands and what he has made of the opportunity is something that will linger in your minds forever - most likely. There's sparkling clarity in the narration, tasteful artistry in the framing and tempered emotionality in the performances. Hooper's form and content merge into one complete seamless whole much like Einar's to Lili, aspires to be. There's bittersweet irony in the craft that hints at submergence while never really completing that expectation. The representations are strong on depth and reflective in dimension. People, landscapes, intentions are presented in beautiful, artistic impressions that are simply breathtaking and unforgettable.
While Eddie Redmayne is a past master at lending strength to a completely immersive experience, it's Alicia Vikander who drives home the poignancy and reality of a coming-to-terms drama of life that is at once a voyage of self-discovery. Her performance is a tour-de-force and simply unforgettable. Danny Cohen's cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's music together with a terrific sound mix and wonderful period costuming by Paco Delgado allows for the film to reach glorious heights. And that's why 'The Danish Girl' is a splendid example of cinematic art that could well stand the test of time and become revered as a modern day classic. You just can't afford to miss this one!
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