Eddie Redmayne Transitions Into “The Danish Girl”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
A Danish transgender woman known as Lili Elbe was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Born as Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener, he became a painter who often dressed as a woman and passed himself off as his “sister.” After transitioning, she legally changed her name to Lili and gave up painting.
In 2000 David Ebershoff published a highly fictionalized novel based on Lili. The movie version kept the same title, “The Danish Girl.”
Directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Misérables”), “The Danish Girl” can be found at Tropic Cinema.
In this telling, Einar Wegener’s wife Gerta is the painter. She convinces her husband to stand in for a female model, which results in a series of oils of Einar posing as a woman. Turns out, he likes it and starts cross-dressing. Eventually this results in him undergoing the first male-to-female sex change operation.
In the beginning Gerta is supportive, but eventually becomes dissatisfied. The relationship becomes even more complicated when Einar’s childhood friend shows up, making for an uneasy ménage à trois.
This three-way is delicately played by British-born Eddie Redmayne (“Les Misérables,” “The Theory of Everything”), Swedish actress Alicia Vikander (“Testament of Youth,” “Ex Machina”), and Belgian graffiti artist Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone,” “Far From the Madding Crowd”).
There’s been some criticism from the trans community of a cisgenger male playing Lili. Sort of like white guys playing Indians in Westerns or African natives in old Tarzan movies. Or blackface.
But Eddie Redmayne says he encountered no resistance when prepping for the role. “I met many people from the community and they could not have been more generous. Every single woman I spoke to -- pretty much across the board -- would start the conversation by going, ‘There is no question I’m not willing to answer.’”
He adds, “In the end what I tried to do -- as well as the paintings and the photographs -- was take all of that information and try to find a version of Lili’s story in me with the acknowledgment that it’s not a documentary piece of material.”
Which is to say Eddie Redmayne makes a lovely lady.