The Danish Girl
Directed by Tom Hooper
HOME, 10 January 2016
Eddie Redmayne plays Einar (later Lili), who’s sort of a transgender martyr.
He is ‘a woman in a man’s body’, as the expression goes, and decides on an operation to correct nature’s error. This is in the 1920s, a period when gender reassignment was in its infancy. The second, final operation leaves him feeling fulfilled, but is fatal.
It is a curious film, a chick flick with a problematic agenda. The best scene is the one where Einar goes to a peep show and watches a prostitute pose and play with herself. She understands that this poor punter doesn’t only want to see her; in some way that he doesn’t quite understand, he wants to be her. And she, after a manner, accepts this. Certainly, she’s more accepting than the medical establishment of the day. She’s also, you get the sense, more accepting and less confused than Einar himself. A woman who has likely seen other, similar men before.
Einar is married to Gerda (the beautiful Alicia Vikander, last seen in Ex Machina), the dominant partner in their relationship, and it’s a moot point whether he’d have embarked on his journey if she had not first painted him as a woman. Only when Einar sees himself as a woman does the desire for transformation become overwhelming. So Lili, Einar’s female self, is in a sense Gerda’s creation.
The film is problematic (I might even say: false and irresponsible) to the extent that it peddles the notion that gender reassignment surgery is the (i.e. the only) solution to Einar’s condition. Why not just find an understanding partner, try something new in the bedroom (there are devices for every desire nowadays, you’d be surprised), make a few lifestyle changes? Gender reassignment can make a man appear like a woman, maybe (Germaine Greer would probably disagree), but then isn’t this just another form of cosmetic surgery? If you believe cosmetic surgery is a worthwhile solution to any and every problem take a look at Jocelyn Wildenstein some time. Here, Einar even expresses the deluded belief that surgery might eventually enable him to have children. He is hardly an exemplar you’d want to follow.
Overall The Danish Girl is an attractive, well-acted film. Interesting, yes, but with an ever so slightly deluded agenda.