The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl was a good film that boasted good performances from its two leads - Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander - but despite its Oscar-baiting story, the ultimate product failed to connect and engage with the audience beyond the superficial layer. And it showed especially in its ending and the penultimate scene.

Tom Hooper is really a fan of the close-ups after Les Miserables, and it was again a double-edged sword here. It worked well for certain scenes but not so for the majority of the others. Hooper chose to tell the story Lili Elbe nee Einer Wegener, but yet the film seemed more interested in focusing on the struggles of Gerda Wegener rather than the identity struggle of Einer/Lili. But when it does, Hooper sort-of just glossed over it and Redmayne go through the expected beats, such that it does become painfully obvious that both Hooper and Redmayne did not explore much into the characterisation and emotional architecture of the eponymous heroine.

Although there is a need to dramatise a story when it is given the big screen treatment, Hooper and writer Lucinda Coxon really twisted the true story of the Wegeners to make it more sanitised and Hollywood-appropriate. Thereby, like Stonewall before it, it felt like a betrayal to the people involved and to the memory of Lili.

Redmayne gave a good performance, but perhaps because of the above, he may not have reached the Oscar-winning heights of his Stephen Hawking portrayal last year for The Theory of Everything. There was so much potential here for him but I think his portrayal of a trans-woman lacked depth and substance. It was more showy (for the sake of showing) rather than nuanced.

Vikander - having a very ubiquitous year after Ex-Machina and The Man From UNCLE - gave a striking performance that showed she was more than just a pretty face. Although I felt that she performed a lot better in Ex-Machina and is more worthy of awards-recognition for a Best Supporting Actress for that role rather than a Best Actress for this (although BAFTA and the Golden Globes might disagree, but strangely enough the SAG put her for Best Supporting Actress for this).

And then of course there were the always reliable Ben Wishaw (I fear he is going to get typecast soon...but after seeing him here and in Suffragette, I really want to watch a Ben-Eddie-Carey Mulligan movie!) and Matthias Schoenaerts (hey! another Carey Mulligan - Far From The Madding Crowd - connection, so maybe a Ben-Eddie-Carey-Matthias rom-com?).

Cinematography was by Danny Cohen who worked with Hooper on The King's Speech and Les Miserables, and he sure did make Copenhagen and Denmark country looked beautiful. Music by Alexandre Desplat was hauntingly beautiful who also did the score for Suffragette but this work was stronger.

The Danish Girl bears a lot of similarity to the other Oscar hopeful Carol. Both films are outstanding and engrossing in their own rights, boasting good performances by their two leads (although Carol's Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara do edged out both Redmayne and Vikander and their very odd/conflicting accents), beautiful score and gorgeous cinematography, and excellent directing, however, also like Carol, something is missing in its final product and execution to really elevate it to greatness. Although Carol does one-up The Danish Girl in its authenticity both in terms of setting and the non-heteronormative love story.


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