If there’s one thing we enjoyed about Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” film, it’s that Eddie Redmayne’s unusual features transform him into a beautiful looking lady. “The Danish Girl” tells the story of Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who wants to undergo one of the first sex reassignment surgeries to become a transsexual female. Eddie Redmayne plays painter Einar Wegener who transitions to living as Lili during the film. Einar is married to painter Gerda (Alicia Vikander), and Gerda supports her husband’s transition to live as Lili.
Transgender identity and the long process of transitioning has been gaining attention in American pop culture. Caitlyn Jenner’s transition from Bruce to Caitlyn was partially televised through E!’s “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” “About Bruce,” and “I am Cait” series. Viewers gained insight into the emotional aspects of transgender identity, and the deep impacts of transitioning. Transitioning can be an emotional process for not only the person transitioning, but also their family, friends, and community. “The Danish Girl” shows the intimate challenges and triumphs experienced between spouses Gerda and Einar/Lili.
Gerda struggles with her husband’s transition to identifying as Lili. The audience gets hints that Gerda has known Einar is transgender all along. We get the sense Gerda is fine with Einar occasionally dressing in women’s clothing and embodying feminine characteristics. Gerda is not completely comfortable with Einar living as Lili full-time. Gerda tells Einar to stop playing games when he dresses in women’s clothing. We see Einar’s struggle to fight his internal identification as a woman. In “The Danish Girl,” we watch Einar starve himself, get beaten by strangers, and seclude himself from everyone. Conversely, Lili loves to be social. Lili loves to work, eat sweets, and go out on the town. She is so much more free than Einar.
“The Danish Girl” hints at some serious and important topics regarding trans* identity including sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The film touches on complex issues around identity, physicality, and mental states. The film is definitely worth watching to see the multifaceted aspects of Lili’s identity as it clashes and mingles with those around her. ‘The Danish Girl” is a great discussion piece, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it mentioned in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality courses.