Transgender in film: The Danish Girl

[Laura Slingo | News Editor]

Director Tom Hooper, best known for his works The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, has recently released his latest blockbuster, The Danish Girl. The biopic, also adapted from David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, explores the life of Lili Elbe, one of the first known pioneers to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

The film begins with married painters Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) in their tender portrait of love. As the doted pair continue to play with their artistic flair, Einar assists his wife by filling in as a life model so that she can continue her portrait of a dancer. By rolling up his trousers, slipping on a pair of stockings and squeezing his feet into a pair of jewelled ballet shoes, it is clear that Einar awakens something from deep within and experiences a sense of self-revelation. The film continues to follow the story of Einar and his raw transition into Lili.

The Danish Girl additional image

Transgender themes, characters and actors have never been so prominent in the media, especially with new Golden Globe nominated film Carol and in the real world, Caitlyn Jenner. Hooper tastefully acknowledges the importance of gender identity, bringing this newly discussed topic even further to the forefront.

To further add to the debate, Hooper has successfully portrayed with accuracy the life of a transgender through a cissexual actor. Some may believe that the role should have been taken on by a transgender actor, someone who has legitimate access to the experience and the emotions that this filmic narrative portrays. Redmayne, however, does not disappoint.

Although at times his early transition into Lili through clothing, wigs and make up seems a little pantomime with overly forced stereotypical feminine poses, especially when contrasted to the strong character of Gerda, Redmayne gives an authentic performance of emotional complexity. It is no wonder he’s been nominated for his second Oscar in two years with this role.

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Transgender in film: The Danish Girl