Telling the tale of a real live person (as opposed to a fictional character) carries with it some added pressure for the screenwriter, director and actors involved. There is almost a responsibility towards that person that they must feel. That pressure is increased ten fold when it is a story like that of Lili and Gerda. Previously Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables – 2012) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, My Week With Marilyn) have demonstrated themselves capable of carrying such a weight. Both men (as director and actor respectively) have won Oscars for telling the tale or portraying a real life character. Still the ante is upped with The Danish Girl, a story about a pioneer in the transgender community.
This is a film in which the less known about it going in the better. Basically it is the story of Einar and Lili, a husband and wife living together in Copenhagen in the 1920s. They are both painters with Einar being a rather famous landscape artist and Lili a less successful portrait artist. Six years into their marriage have to undergo a seismic shift in their relationship. That realization results in a massive change in Einar and their relationship.
Tom Hooper is really a director who knows how to tell a story. He knows when to go big or pull back in service of what he is doing. Meaning he has a clear vision and does not stray from it. Though this is an important story he manages to tell the tale of Lili in a rather intimate way. It is an incredible story and he does it justice with his decisions.
The pacing of the story might be too slow for some, but it really allows the viewer to be immersed in the process and the pain that Lili had to go through in the effort to become her true self. There is a load of emotional scenes and a lot of Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander really playing off one another. Redmayne has quickly shot to the head of the lot of young British actors working today. There seems to be nothing or no character that is beyond the scope of his talent. Plus the guy is so brave. So so brave. He will go to any length for a character and the story. Won’t be surprised if he is once again nominated in the Lead Actor category at next year’s Oscars.
Though I am sure that Eddie Redmayne is going to get much recognition (yet again) for his work in this film, it is important to really see and appreciate what up and comer Alicia Vikander brings to it as well. Her role is the less showy one, but in many respects the harder to portray. Gerda was a woman ahead of her time and a very brave one. She understood the idea of standing by your man…even if your man really is a woman. Vikander does not allow this very giving woman to fade into the background. She shows how empowering it is to love and be giving. A deft, nuanced and beautiful portrayal of unconditional love. Gerda is a woman also going through a transition. She is having to accept the fact that the man she loves is leaving her in a manner of speaking. Gerda is losing Einar. And all this is happening at time when there was really no reference for what they were going through; it was even illegal for them to speak of it.
Though some might disagree with me, I feel that this is an important story and needed to be told. History books worthy.