The Danish Girl (2015)

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Wishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pip Torrens

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

At first glance, brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking and transgender artist Lili Elbe wouldn't appear to have much in common, aside from the fact that they're both played in biopics by Eddie Redmayne. Yet both, in their own ways, were groundbreaking pioneers imprisoned in bodies that in no way reflect the person inside. And both found a form of freedom through the love of an amazing, strong and dedicated woman.

Because just as The Theory of Everything isn't really about physics, or even about the trials of having motor neurone disease, so The Danish Girl isn't really about being a woman in a man's body: both are, at heart, unconventional love stories about people whose lives are very different from the Disney princess dream but which are beautiful all the same, enriched by a love that defies all odds.

Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener in The Danish Girl

The other thing Lili has in common with Hawking is that she may well win Redmayne an Oscar, but I think it's Alicia Vikander as Lili's wife Gerda who truly deserves the gong. Talented and fearless, it's clear from the very start of the film, when Lili is still Einar, a shy, somewhat fey landscape artist, that she has always been the driving force in their relationship, even encouraging Lili's first tentative, Bambi-like foray into society – until she realises that this audacious game of dress up is no cheeky Bohemian jape for her husband but an expression of his/her true inner self, a self that Gerda, despite painfully conflicting emotions, can nurture through her art as a portrait painter, and through her devotion, even though, in doing so, she can only lose her. (Interestingly, Einar ceases painting as he transforms into Lili: she is his greatest creation, his masterpiece.)

Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

As befits a story that centres around art and re-creation, The Danish Girl looks simply ravishing, with a gorgeous cast set against picture-perfect settings, from Copenhagen's timeless Nynhaven to the Rococo elegance of inter-war Paris. And yet, unlike director Tom Hooper's last beautifully-made film about a repressed husband with a supportive wife who helps him transform, The King's Speech, the issues addressed here are far more traumatic and irresolvable, and no amount of floaty scarves, perfect profiles and ethereal landscapes can disguise that.

Visually flawless and there-appears-to-be-something-stuck-in-my-eye moving, The Danish Girl is a fine film that tells an important story. What a great way to start the new cinematic year.

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