Two blog posts in one day, and one coming tomorrow morning – I know, it’s crazy! But this blog post had to be written…and immediately.
I’ve just watched the movie The Danish Girl and I was totally and completely blown away! I wanted to document my reactions as quickly as possible, and I knew I couldn’t wait days to get this post down. The story was so moving and incredibly powerful and I have to rant and rave about it, or I may not be able to get it off my mind at all.
For those who don’t know much about the movie, it follows Gerda Wegener and her husband, Einar Wegener. Although their marriage seems simple at first, it is eventually revealed that Einar wants to live as a woman, Lili Elbe, and he is unhappy living a male life. He expresses this desire to his wife and they must face the struggle of altering Einar’s identity together. The film is, as becomes apparent by the end, based on true events and real individuals.
I need to preface this by saying that I don’t know anything about the life of Lili Elbe or Gerda Wegener. I had never heard of them before and I didn’t even know that this film was based on real events until the blurb appeared at the end of it. I had a loose idea of what the plot was about before going into the movie, but I didn’t know what to expect really and I was definitely surprised. I had in my mind that there would be more of a struggle between Gerda and Einar; I had this idea that Gerda would be angry and resentful and not at all supportive of her husband’s decision. But, imagine my surprise when that was not the case at all: this is the story of two very strong women, two women who are intimately bonded and who have a complicated relationship no doubt, but two women who are also unfailingly supportive and accepting of one another. That was a powerful thing to witness. I absolutely loved the relationship between Gerda and Lili; it made me a better human to witness it and it has made me think about the sacrifices that are sometimes necessary in love.
I believe that it shattered Gerda in many ways to watch her husband become a woman, and I can’t blame her. I am openly and vehemently in support of the LGBT community, and I believe that every person deserves to live the life that makes them happiest and most comfortable, whether that pertains to the significant other they choose to spend their life with or the gender they identify with. I’ve always been supportive of this community, but I admit that I never did put myself in the position of a spouse or a parent having to help a loved one or child through this sort of gender transition. To see the situation from that perspective, from the point of view of a woman who desperately loves her husband but must watch him transition to living as a woman, was truly enlightening. The situation was so complicated because I sympathized with Einar/Lili but I also felt devastated and sad for Gerda, who was such a pillar of strength for her husband but who also faced the loss of her life partner. It was almost as though Gerda was forced to mourn the death of Einar (Lili describes Einar as having died throughout the movie), and it was heartbreaking to witness. But, it was also so so inspiring to see just how strong Gerda became. She stood by Lili through every aspect of her transition, no matter how scary or life threatening, and she remained a great emotional support for her. I feel as though my own opinions were challenged while watching this film, and I only hope that I could be as open-minded, accepting and caring as Gerda if faced with a similar situation in my own life.
Having said all this, Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne were undeniably brilliant in their roles! I was in awe of their performances. I’ve never seen Alicia Vikander in any other movie, but I am a huge fan of her acting now! She truly deserved the Oscar she received – although Einar/Lili was arguably the main subject of the film, Gerda was the heart and soul of the story, and I couldn’t look away from Vikander during every scene she was in. Eddie Redmayne was equally incredible, though. I fancy myself a rather big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, but I have to say that I think Redmayne should’ve taken the Oscar (again) this year. His performance was flawless and breathtaking – I believed him as troubled and tormented Einar, and I could feel his relief and joy as he became Lili. He was perfectly cast, and the chemistry between Vikander and Redmayne really made the story so much more poignant and memorable.
I would highly recommend this film to just about anyone. It will go down as one of the more memorable movies I’ve seen and, as I said, I believe I became a better human after watching it. I always appreciate a story that changes me, that makes me think about my established opinions, that interrogates the beliefs that I hold dear. The Danish Girl did that for me, and I won’t soon forget the story. I truly feel that it has shaped my convictions for the future.
Girl with a Green Heart