Tom Hooper’s return to form after the dreadfully disappointing film version of Les Miserables (2012) is a fictionalised retelling of the story of a very brave and courageous human being. Based on David Ebershoff's novel of the same name, The Danish Girl (2015) is the story of Lille Elbe who was credited as one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery.
Born Einar Magnus Andreas Wagener in Venice, Denmark in 1882 as a male, met his future wife at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and married in 1904. Einar specialised in landscape painting while he wife Gerda illustrated books and fashion magazines. Einar love of dressing as a woman started when he was asked to wear stockings and heels so he could fill in for the ‘legs and feet’ of Gerda's absentee model Anna Larssen. Following this one simple incident he stared dressing, and in time identifying as a woman. He became the beautiful female model featured in his wife's best known paintings and accompanied her to many social functions in Paris where they moved in 1912. It was after this period in 1930 that this transgender pioneer Lilli Elbe went to Germany for what was at that time experimental sex reassignment surgery which would involve four operations over two years.
|Gerda's self portrait.|
The film stars Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegerer/Lilli Elbe who was nominated for Best Actor in the 2016 Academy Awards and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegenar/Gottlieb for which she quite rightly won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Also included in the cast is Ben Whishaw as Claude Lejeune Lilli Elbe's lover, Sebastian Koch as Doctor Kurt Warnekros who performed the ground breaking surgery and Amber Heard as Anna Larssen Gerda's model and friend.
There was some criticism for casting a cis actor in the main role but I believe Redmayne pulled it off but there certainly more to the story than was portrayed in Ebershoff’s book. Although it has been opined that Lucinda Coxen's screenplay allows a more truthful reflection of the story it still does not tell the whole story including the fact that Gerda Gottlieb had lesbian lovers leading to some critics accusing the film of being LGBT sanitised. A well-intentioned film that in my opinion does not go far enough.