The Oscar winning director of The King’s Speech and Les Misérables has returned this January with The Danish Girl, a weighty drama about the first gender reassignment patient, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne). It’s an important story but The Danish Girl will most likely be remembered for its powerhouse performances by Eddie Redmayne and rising star Alicia Vikander than its treatment of the issues.
The Danish Girl Eddie Redmayne

The story is lusciously captured with some magnificently composed scenes by director Tom Hooper’s long time cinematographer Danny Cohen. Yet the complexity of Einar’s feelings eludes Hooper’s visual storytelling, particularly in the film’s early scenes. Hooper’s camera gazes at ladies stockings, bare ankles and lace up boots: an obvious and often clumsy indication of Einar’s inner conflict and self-realisation. Lacking subtlety and used to such excess, Hooper’s beautiful visuals feel contrived. Even Redmayne plays into this distracting, stylised aesthetic by imitating cliches of 1920s female grace and glamour. It’s a startling physical transformation but one which comes to overshadow the story itself.

As Einar’s relationship with his wife comes under increasing pressure, Redmayne and Vikander’s palpable emotion mercifully distract from Hooper’s visual tropes. Gerda’s unshakeable commitment to Einar is especially moving but the depth of feeling in screenwriter Lucinda Coxon’s first act is difficult to top. As Einar faces increasingly painful radiation treatments, untested medical procedures and public humiliation, the space left to intensify fear and suffering is limited and Hooper’s film comes to feel one-note. Ultimately, The Danish Girl is suffocated by the staggering performances that define it while the complexity of the story it tells remains, sadly, elusive.

 

VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ 3/5

 

Certificate: 15
Running time: 119 minutes
Images: © 2015 – Focus Features

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