The remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, played by Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer. It’s 1926 in Copenhagen and Einar Wegener is a painter of landscapes on the verge of success, and the passionate and actively heterosexual husband of a beautiful fellow artist, Gerda, who specializes in portraits. Then everything is altered dramatically the first time he poses as a favor for Gerda while she’s waiting for her model to arrive. Reluctantly, he dons silk stockings and matching pumps, and his embarrassment slowly turns to a confusing confrontation with feelings he’s repressed since childhood. The unexpected ecstasy in Redmayne’s face of the way the fabric feels to his touch is a clue to things to come.
Drawn inexplicably into a double life, as Einar and as his shy, alluring “cousin Lili,” he conceals a dual personality that nearly drives him to suicide. Based on Wegener’s actual diaries, published in 1933, Lucinda Coxon’s beautifully collated screenplay, from David Ebershoff’s book about Wegener’s life, tackles a complex subject with dignity and respect, leaving nothing out. In the process, you will learn more about gender crisis than you ever thought possible.
Regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, The Danish Girl is an overwhelming triumph for Eddie Redmayne. He shows an intense compassion for the daunting psychology of gender transition that results in what looks like uncanny freedom on the screen. His body language in scene after scene, measure for measure, is in a class by itself. Tom Hooper is the perfect director to find his pulse and guide him bravely to further glory in a difficult and demanding tour de force. But Vikander is more than a match for him. Confusion and compassion pour from this talented actor’s face. Gerda is also an artist, whose portraits aren’t selling so even that sliver of empowerment slips away as Lili emerges. Vikander subtly distills Gerda’s emotions, as each are tempted, stray and yet continue to lean on each other.
Both Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander won nominations for Best Actor and Actress at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs and were nominated for Oscars. Alicia Vikander won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall