It has been five years since British director Hooper won the Best Director for the award-winning King’s Speech, and three years since Les Misérables. He now returns to the big screen with another feature that is sure to be a notable contender in this year’s forthcoming awards season.
The Danish Girl is the story of Lili Elbe, one of the world’s first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery. In the 1920s, Danish landscape artist Einar Wegener (Redmayne) assists artist Gerda Wegener (Vikander) with her portraits by dressing as a woman, leading to his new life as Lili. After initial confusion, she ultimately decides to undergo sex assignment to fully become a woman, with Gerda’s eventual support.
When Redmayne was first announced as the lead, it attracted criticism regarding a cisgender actor playing a transgender character. It is easy to see the dilemma; the film has an opportunity to showcase a new era in cinema diversity by highlighting transgender actresses in Hollywood, similar to Laverne Cox in TV show Orange is the New Black. However, having Redmayne as Lili – following on from his success at the 2015 Oscars for The Theory of Everything – feels like too much of a safe bet.
However, The Danish Girl makes up for this oversight with sensitivity and care. Hooper’s intricate direction and Coxon’s well-adapted screenplay encapsulate Einar’s insecurities among social scrutiny, not to mention Gerda’s growing fear of losing her husband. Along with the beautiful cinematography by Hooper’s long-term collaborator Danny Cohen and Alexandre Desplat’s haunting and poignant score, it is a striking film.
At the end of the day, the film belongs to Redmayne and Vikander. They both deliver spectacular performances and share a genuine chemistry with each other. Redmayne is captivating as both Einar and Lili, while Vikander’s strong-willed Gerda rounds off an amazing year for the actress.
Everything about The Danish Girl is beautiful: the performances, cinematography and screenplay. Truly mesmerising.