The previews for The Danish Girl suggested it was the film that could see a win for back-to-back Best Actor awards at the Oscars, for the first time since Tom Hanks won his second accolade for Forrest Gump in 1994. I am of course talking about the new kid on the block Eddie Redmayne, but on judgement of his portrayal of Lili Elbe, one of the first women to undergo gender reassignment surgery, I’m not sure his acting techniques are anything new.
Meeting the Danish Girl
Before I outline areas of Redmayne’s performance that came across as somewhat repetitious, I would like to add that his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (2014) was an acting masterclass. As Stephen, Redmayne encapsulates the frustration of living with a degenerative disease. However, the lasting impressions of Redmayne in that film filtered their way into my interpretations of his performance in The Danish Girl. Nothing in Redmayne’s performance felt fresh. The wry smiles and the awkward looks showed the physical and mental entrapment that consumed Lili, but Redmayne’s performance didn’t identify a clear separation between two different figures undergoing very different experiences.
We meet Einar and his wife Gerda Wegener (played by Alicia Vikander) as a happily married couple. After assisting Gerda by posing as a female model for her painting work, Einar begins to understand that he truly identifies as woman. Throughout, Lili scrutinises Gerda’s support towards her quest to capture a true identity and when we do finally meet Lili in her entirety, I could feel nothing but sympathy for Gerda. This is a testament to Vikander who shows great strength and range in her acting style to represent a wife who through unrelenting love, will do anything for her husband. Hollywood newcomer Vikander is in fact the films true revelation as she complements Redmayne’s awkwardness with a confident charm and in scenes doused with intense emotion, she is entirely believable.
The art direction of this film is one of its finest markers. The set decoration and costumes propel you into 1920s Denmark and later Paris with such realism, that whilst sat in the cinema I felt as if I had been thrown back to the jazz era and grandeur of a Gatsby gathering. In addition, Lili’s convincing transformation lends itself in part to how well the costume and make-up team applied themselves to accentuate Redmayne’s feminine features.
The perfectly understated musical score by Alexandre Desplat enriches The Danish Girl. Desplat draws upon the raw complexity of issues that we see before us with a melancholy soundtrack that builds up throughout only to quietly fade away without any hesitation towards the finale.
Director Tom Hooper has done no harm by adding The Danish Girl to his growing resume of successful films, and whilst this film won’t stand as strong as The King’s Speech (2010) it certainly is worth a watch. Alicia Vikander’s star continues to grow and she thoroughly deserves her nomination for Best Actress at the Oscars. Whilst Eddie Redmayne’s performance left me feeling underwhelmed in contrast to his performance in The Theory of Everything, I am positive this won’t be the last time he is nominated for the Best Actor gong… He may even steal it from Leonardo Dicaprio’s grasp.