HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Danish Girl
HTS Overall Score:73
Gender issues have become more and more popular over the last several years, especially in regards to TRANS gender issues. Caitlyn Jenner brought into the limelight something that had been lurking in the shadows for many a year, although there have been an incredible amount of actresses and actors in real life that have embraced that cultural aspect for decades. It’s a controversial subject, and one that I gracefully will stay out of for controversy is not the subject of analytical reviews. At least not on this venue. All I can do is watch and evaluate the movie based on its own merits and its own faults. As such I have to say that I was enthralled yet bored with this overtly flashy and gaudy affair that forgets to tell an actual story instead of using the film as a canvas for theatricality and glossy veneer like imagery.
“The Danish Girl” is based off of real life painters Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) Wegener. Originally turned into a book in 1933, the tale is adapted to film as a fictional retelling of the gist of their lives. Einar and Gerda both love to paint, as much as they love each other. Einar is a highly successful landscape painter, while Gerda is frustrated by being turned down everywhere for her portraits (probably also due partially to the fact that she was a woman in a time that still frowned on women in the work force). One day Gerda has a model skip a day in their painting session, and she has Einar wear the stockings, shoes and dress of the model. This is a pivotal point in the film, as Einar visibly has a sort of awakening inside of him, as he realizes his affinity for the female sex. Soon this change becomes more and more prevalent. Gerda does not see the severity of it at first, teasing him slightly, and even dressing him up as her model to take to a function one night.
This change spirals deeper and deeper, as Einar becomes to change INTO what he once was just playing at. Taking on the name and characteristics of Lili (the name of the model they chose), it becomes harder and harder for him to identify with Einar, even allowing himself to be pursued by one Henrik by name (Ben Witshaw….Q from the Daniel Craig 007 films). Gerda desperately tries everything she can to fix her husband, including sending him to a doctor who diagnoses him with a chemical imbalance. Knowing she loved Einar/Lili, Gerda agrees to Einar undergoing gender reassignment surgery. A surgery that back then was EXTREMELY dangerous, with nasty side effects and a low chance of coming out alive.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66354[/img]There are several moments in the film where I wondered if they were trying to aim specifically for farce. Cheesy lines like “You’re Different from most girls”, and “That’s not a very original line” hit heavy on the wince meter, even with venerable actor Ben Witshaw and Eddie Redmayne saying them. The biggest issue and flaw that the movie has is Eddie Redmayne, who is both benefit and curse of the movie. He was exuberant and enjoyable in his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, but here is chews the scenery a bit and overacts to the extreme at time. Much of the film is of him playing at being a woman, watching women and adapting their hand movements, their tilts of the chin and other such physical features. Sometimes it comes off natural, like his first dress up as Lili, but other times it feels like he’s going to pull out a fan and start waving it in from of his face while fluttering his eyelids dramatically.
It’s really a matter of style over substance. So much of the film felt like a live action painting, covering the entire screen time with gorgeously shot scenes that feel devoid of any meaning. The major reassignment surgery that is the crux of the film is relegated to the last 20 minutes of the movie or so. Not to mention that fact that they completely sidelined the fact that this was a VERY dangerous procedure to undergo. It was glossed over with Eddie wistfully smiling into the camera and then it was over and the fateful incident that brackets the film happens. Frustratingly enough, those are things that would have made the film more interesting and engaging to the audience. Not seeing Einar dress up time and time again. Basically the best way of describing the shortcomings of the film is that it is overly repetitious with not enough meat, and there is so much style that it drowns out the substance. I have to give Alicia Vikander her dues, though. She was absolutely magnificent as Gerda. She plays a very tender woman who loves her husband very much, and displays all of the natural emotions that go with someone like Einar wishing to change his very being to something she almost doesn’t recognize at first.
Rated R for some sexuality and full nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66362[/img]The one thing that “The Danish Girl” does magnificently is paint a beautiful picture on camera. The lovely ex Victorian age Denmark canvas is painted with all sorts of colors, from brilliant whites and soft pastel pinks and beiges, to deep blood red wigs. There is a sort of crisp “softness” to the film that looks like the pastels have a stronger presence than upon first inspection. Fine detail is magnificent as you can see every fiber on the dress that Einar is stroking near the beginning, to the little freckles on his face. The glint of lipstick shines on Lili’s face as Gerda applies it that fateful night and the shadows some immense details. There is some slight banding in certain darker bits, but very minimally intrusive. Also I noticed some of the long shots had a smoky look to them, which gives the overall image an every so light hint of softness that keeps it from being 100% razor blade sharp.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=66370[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is excellent as well, showing off fantastic dialog and exceptional use of the score. Vocals are crisp and detailed. Never giving rise to an imbalance in the track as you can hear everything from Gerda’s feisty voice, to Lili’s ever so soft attempt to cover up the masculine tone. Surrounds are used sparsely, but effectively. Mostly keeping ambient noises coming in at poignant points, or the allowing the melody of the score to flow through all channels. LFE is tight and constrained, keeping more to a low profile than making itself known with heavy bass lines. It’s a good track, but a subtle one that keeps itself from being a show runner by said subtlety.
• The Making of "The Danish Girl"
I’ve very torn about “The Danish Girl”. In some ways it’s a beautifully artistic film that shines when it is letting you view it as a painting, but once you dig into the story it is a frustrating mess of a narrative. Despite controversy over the subject matter, I try to view every movie as a distinct and isolated experience, enjoying or disliking whatever I see on screen as if it was its own world. Sadly I just could not get into the story and Eddie Redmayne sadly overacts once more, despite his incredible acting chops. Audio and video were superb, but the extras leave a lot to be desired. Especially considering there is so much of the real life couples journey that was left out of the movie. Material that would have made for a fascinating making of or documentary. Low Rental at best.
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: Lucinda Coxon (Screenplay), David Ebershoff (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 120 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 1st 2016
Buy The Danish Girl On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Low Rental
More about Mike