Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sebastian Koch
Genre: Drama, Biography
Age Rating: 15/R
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Last weekend I witnessed a blatant awards contender; THE DANISH GIRL. But, why exactly is this film an Oscard and BAFTA contender? Is it for the directing, the acting, the story, the music or the controversial subject matter? Read on to find out what this guy thinks!
Set in Copenhagen and Paris, THE DANISH GIRL tells the fictionalised version of the true story of Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), an artist who became the first transgendered woman, known as Lili Elbe, in the early 1930s, and the physical and emotional challenges which came with this person finally becoming what they believed to be their true self.
It is hard to experience this film and not have a very personal opinion on the matter afterwards. Some will sympathise, some will empathise, some will be disturbed and some will be liberated come the end of this film. Immediately, this emphasises one of the strengths of this film in that it creates debate and discussion. It is certainly not something you’ll forget easily! However, my only concern was that the subject matter would be what won the film its awards in 2016, but so far that does not seem to be happening.
It did not scope any awards at this year’s Golden Globes in California, but it could be a completely different ball game in next month’s BAFTAs which is sure to celebrate the work of UK based directors and actors more than The Globes.
In terms of directing and acting, the film is impressive. It brilliantly captures the period is set in, and the music which accompanies each scene to tell the story of Einar and his heartbroken, yet understanding and dedicated wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) is perfect throughout. However, understandably, it does not look like Tom Hooper will be receiving and major “Best Director” awards this year with the likes of Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Alejandro G. Iñárritu to contend with.
Similarly, the performances of Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander definitely deserve recognition. Even though it could be said that Redmayne went for very obvious Oscar role this year, it still takes a brave actor to not only play this role but represent a whole community of people which I assume are very appreciative of what he has done in this film. His performance is stellar and the ways in which he portrays the mental and physical turmoil that this person went through in very harsh and challenging times is superb.
However, when we’re talking Oscars, I have to judge his performance against 2014’s THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (which he won the “Best Actor” Oscar for in 2015), and personally, I did not leave the cinema blown away, thinking “Wow, Eddie Redmayne that was unbelievable” this time around. I am a big fan of Eddie Redmayne, do not doubt that for a second, but hopefully (as a huge Leonardo DiCaprio fan) I will leave THE REVENANT with the same mind set which I had at the end of Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking rather than Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe.
On the other hand, unfortunately it seems that the “Best Actress” and “Best Supporting Actress” categories will be tough and cruel categories this year to Alicia Vikander, a worthy winner who is outstanding in both this film and EX MACHINA from earlier in the year. Her portrayal of Gerda Wegener is incredibly upsetting yet inspirational at the same time, displaying perhaps one of the most unconditional forms of love the world has ever seen! Every scene with her is beautiful or heart-breaking to sit back and appreciate, and if anything, I left this film in awe of her performance more so than Redmayne’s!
Finally, as we can see from the awards and nominations so far, THE DANISH GIRL does not look like it will be bringing home any “Best Film” awards this year, and personally, I fully agree. It is undoubtedly an important and very well produced film, but judging it simply as a film, it is on par with the likes of SUFFRAGETTE and BROOKLYN this year; it is great but not sensational. This could be just my film taste, but in my opinion, it does not rival the likes of TRUMBO, THE MARTIAN or BRIDGE OF SPIES for lead acting or directing, and honestly from what I’ve heard of CAROL, THE REVENANT, THE BIG SHORT and SPOTLIGHT, I can’t see it contending with these either.
My best bet is that I can see it walking away with “Outstanding British Film” at February’s BAFTAs, but then this is even a close call with the likes of EX MACHINA and BROOKLYN in the running. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this should be the first we see a back-to-back Academy Award winner for “Best Actor” since Tom Hanks in 1994 (PHILADELPHIA and FORREST GUMP).
Step aside Eddie it’s finally Leo’s turn!!
Overall, THE DANISH GIRL is a very well directed and acted period drama based on a true story which everybody should at some point experience in order to help them understand a community of people which have had a lot of focus around them in the year of 2015. Personally, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but in all honesty, it has not really changed my opinion towards transgenderism, but instead supported it if anything. Focusing on what this review should be about though, this film is an educational and emotional 2 hour watch which occasionally drags, but Redmayne and Vikander are flawless and have a great on screen chemistry together which is in fact more explicit than I was imagining. This film will educate you, shock you and inspire you but most of all, it will have you talking about it long after you’ve seen it. I obviously wish the film all the best in this year’s awards season, but, deep down, I am hoping that I won’t be seeing Redmayne clutching that golden man this year.
“I’ve only liked a handful of people in my life, and you’ve been two of them.”
Recommendation: I would only urge people to rush to the cinema to see this if you have a strong connection to the story or subject, or alternatively if you just want to see all of the BAFTA/Oscar contenders before the awards happen. Otherwise, definite watch on DVD/On Demand.