A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Tom Hooper
Produced By: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anne Harrison, Tom Hooper, Gail Mutrux
Written By: Lucinda Coxon (Screenplay), David Ebershoff (Novel)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts
Running Time: 119 Minutes
From an Oscar-winning performance centred around the progressive struggle an unparalleled genius faces as he slowly loses the ability to physically function, to a performance based around a slow and crushing identity crisis, Eddie Redmayne demonstrates he is one of the elite young talents working today.
The aforementioned tale of identity and losing oneself in exchange for another is expressed relevantly and powerfully in The Danish Girl, Tom Hooper’s fictitious feature (based on the 2000 novel of the same name and inspired by true events) centred around an artist couple living in mid-1920’s Copenhagen.
Alongside Alicia Vikander, Redmayne attracts the lion’s share of the attention, yet it appears as if the story is an evenly divided one, more so than the promotional material would suggest.
The two central performances impress, however the seemingly timely transgender tale seems to approach the subject matter loosely and abruptly, attempting to establish a long-term struggle within Redmayne’s character Einar but jeopardising itself form the offset.
Hooper’s presence can be felt within the film’s stylistic sheen. The bold and visually stunning cinematography tells the story of struggle, pain and inner torment very well, deliberately using symmetry, displacement and depth to externalise the very internal problem at hand. Like his previous works The King’s Speech and Les Misérables from 2010 and 2012, imagery is a key element one will take away from the film.
For The Danish Girl, the visual style works, however the story in question does not lend itself as strongly to the approach as his previous works have. The tale is designed to be a downward spiral into discovery (or ‘insanity’ as it was referred to in the mid-20’s), and where such a story would be better suited for some dirtier, harsher imagery, the most consistent element of the film is how overly polished and pristine it looks.
Where Redmayne and Vikander are at their lowest, most devastated, the lighting, framing and sheen of the shots highlight something beautiful, creating a disturbance in mood and emotional resonance.
The subject matter is a bold undertaking for Hooper who, bravely sticking his neck out, would be fully aware that such a film would create controversy and debate.
Activists, purists and opinionated finger-pointers alike will undoubtedly find problems within the storytelling aspects of the film, however they will most likely be blown right out of proportion and turned against Hooper, who would only have the sole intention of being as respectful as possible.
Where the film is bland, uninteresting, lacking substance and rushed at points, it has it’s powerful moments that hint at what The Danish Girl should have been. The casting of Redmayne in the leading role will no doubt be at the forefront of debate.
Although the casting of a real-life transgender actor would have added heart and authenticity to the role, Redmayne’s performance is one of deep humanity and struggle – a real credit.
The focus of taboo-shattering cinema has evolved as of late, with 2015 spawning two diametrically opposed tales of transgenderism. Along with The Danish Girl (a wider spread, safer approach to the topic), Tangerine also explored the world of the transgender community, only in a harsher, unapologetically urgent and shocking manner. Where Tangerine was hard-hitting and comedically insane for the most part, the refined, slower and glossy nature of The Danish Girl ultimately establishes less believable characters than Sean Baker’s mobile feature.
There is depth within the characters and the surrounding issues of love, acceptance and treatment, however what Tangerine approaches more realistically is the struggles of being a transgender individual in today’s society.
Both appear to be in line with the modern zeitgeist, only one explores the origins of the topic and the visceral struggle of crossing over.
The manifestation of emotions, realisations and truths is one of great struggle for Einar (Redmayne), however what Hooper has established within the overarching story of the film is that it is equally, if not more about his wife Gerda (Viaknder). The Danish Girl is a love story, however it’s a tragedy all the same when observing the sacrifices a loving wife has to make in order to make her husband happy in his own skin.
As previously mentioned, Redmayne’s previous Oscar-winning efforts in The Theory of Everything revolve around somebody losing themselves to an uncontrollable force. The Danish Girl is also about Redmayne’s Einar losing himself to who he believes he truly is.
On the other side of these two-sided stories, we see a loving wife faced with the recently surfaced inevitability of eventually saying goodbye to the husband she once knew and loved so dearly. That love will aways be there, but what the story so powerfully attempts to address is the notion of letting go.
This leads into the thought of The Danish Girl being more the story of Gerda (Vikander). ‘The Danish Girl’ in question may not be who one thinks it is, but it’s all a matter of perspective.
Hooper’s latest is one that has divided viewers, and with good reason. Stellar performances carry the picture, however some confusion relating to style and substance lets the film down as a whole.
The undertaking of such subject matter is brave and important, yet the overall approach seems to have rendered the end product unremarkable and slightly tiresome. Some will be offended by the portrayal of the internal, crippling struggles many of us face in our day to day lives, whilst others will have no qualm whatsoever. Where it could have been dealt with in a more rounded, explorative manner, the externalisation of the internal dilemma comes out very well through the leading performances.
The Danish Girl has its moments of beauty and class, however when thinking about what could’ve and should’ve been, with all the depth in imagery and promised story exploration, it all feels rather flat.