Through Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Lili, you’ll gain an increased respect for the various aspects which represent femininity, and through Alicia Vikander’s role as Gerda, you get to peer inside the lives of those who learn to accept the drastic change which is losing someone for their true self.
Trigger Warning(s): Transphobia
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
It is 1926 in Copenhagen and Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are quite the enviable couple. Einar is a locally famous painter, and his wife is someone who is up and coming. Though while they are quite the lovebirds, unfortunately, Gerda getting pregnant is quite an issue. A small one however in comparison to Einar rediscovering his femininity, all thanks to his wife. You see, long ago, when Einar was young, he, for a lack of a better term, did experiment a bit with his gender identity, but with a harsh scolding, he suppressed it. Decades later, though, with his wife asking him to post in stockings and a dress, to help her finish a portrait, the feeling of putting on women’s clothes, and feeling the fabric, triggers the old memories.
Memories which can no longer be denied and repressed, no matter what Einar does, or Gerda says. Leaving Einar to decide to live his truth, as Lili, and try to craft a life for Lili in which, ultimately, she ends up happy. A struggle for Gerda, who still loves what once was her husband, but the true struggle is for Lili. For even with Lili being in Europe, where things supposedly are more liberal, there remains many obstacles to her being accepted, as well as achieving her ultimate desire: to have the mind, body, and internal parts, of a woman.
Though not something I often focus on, I must say the score to this film was astounding. Not just for setting the tone and mood, but on its own, it takes you to a place where you feel like you are at a symphony and not at the movies.
As noted in the overview, Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili brings a further appreciation to the concept of femininity. For be it the walk of a woman, the way she moves her hands, smiles, seduces. puts on her makeup, and more, watching him emulate the actresses around him shows this complexity that perhaps only someone who studies psychology may truly, fully, appreciate.
I found Vikander’s portrayal of Gerda to present an interesting perspective in that her husband, who she deeply loves, is transitioning from a man and a woman. Then, to add onto that, she presented the trigger and fostered its beginning. Thus creating a very complex relationship in which she loves the person, be them Einar or Lili, and yet wants the man. The one she fell in love with, had sex with and made the first approach of. Yet, she knows that man could not survive. For either, he was going to die by suicide or die in such a way where it is like when a phoenix dies. Temporarily until it rises from the ashes stronger than ever.
In terms of Redmayne’s performance, while it didn’t solicit any tears from me, it is hard to not feel something, anything, for Einar/ Lili. For while I myself am cis, as can be seen in the handful of LGBT films on this blog, things have changed and if not got better, at the very least there is now a bigger community, and access so the way you think can become the way you are. So, in comparison, watching Lili struggle with not having hormones, finding doctors more ready to have her committed than help, and struggle to have any sort of support, since Gerda really wanted Einar more than her, it’s hard to not be overcoming with feelings of sadness and pity.
On The Fence
Though more than enough is given to us about Einar/ Lili and Gerda, I do wish we did get to learn more about the side characters. Many of which, hours after seeing the movie, I’m left wondering about this lives. For between Henri (Jake Graf) a homosexual in the 1920s; Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), who witnessed the first incarnation of Lili, and possibly has an affair with Gerda; and more, I won’t say I felt cheated, but I do feel a bit seduced and left before climax – which I know sounds a little dirty.
Speaking of Hans and that affair, I was strongly left wondering what happened with that? Granted, Gerda kissed Hans back mostly due to officially losing her husband, but I was left curious if maybe those two got together or was that just creative license?
Overall: Worth Seeing
I feel like I should put an asterisk next to that worth seeing, if only because while this is good, I wouldn’t rush to see it in the theaters. However, because of the pace and the way the music is, I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice watching it at home. Now, what inspires most of this hesitation is because, similar to Redmayne’s The Theory of Everything, as good as things are, the production doesn’t provide any sense of entertainment. As said with the aforementioned movie, “[this] is the type of film which is more about performances, and the art of acting, than a film which necessarily seeks to entertain the audience.” Which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, but even with the handful of jokes Gerda has, especially as she deals with the transition, the film feels like it is on a slow decline with the starting point being high up.
Things To Note
I think Redmayne, at this point, should perhaps be considered the front runner for major accolades.
You maybe familiar with Alicia Vikander from Ex-Machina. Good to see her getting more work.