In life we all have our struggles
“I love you because you are the only person who made sense of me. You made me possible.”
- Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
Tom Hooper’s direction is based on a book by David Ebershoff, which itself is based on the diaries and life story of Lili Elbe (1882-1931). Elbe was originally a famous landscape painter known as Einar Wegener, but she stopped painting when her identity as a woman became stronger. In a way art never left her, as she began posing for Gerda Wegener (Gottlieb), her ex-wife, and the portraits became a huge success in France. After Elbe’s death, Gottlieb continued to paint her until her own death in 1940.
The movie itself is a cinematographic masterpiece: every frame is exact like a painting, and it’s clear how much effort is put into it to make all the pieces fall into their places. There is no scene that couldn’t be screenshotted with a blur, and that speaks for itself. Throughout the movie, colours play an important role: all the scenes that take place in Denmark are full of light colours such as milk white, blue, and light pink. It’s like all the real colours have left the place, leaving behind only aesthetical serenity or longing. Scenes in Paris instead are filled with warm colours such as dark wood, red velvet and light yellow. In a way these huge changes in colour palettes reflect Elbe’s personal view on reality and herself: Denmark is a place where everybody expects her to be Mr. Wegener, a man with a wife; a man who is a famous painter; someone she is not. Elbe is a colourful person, someone who stands out in a crowd, but Denmark is her personal Hell.
Paris instead is where Elbe can finally be herself: a trans woman and the beautiful face in Gottlieb’s portraits. She becomes someone people anticipate to meet: someone who is looked up to. Elbe’s time in Paris is the last missing piece that makes her bloom.
Despite critique, Eddie Redmayne, a cisgender man, did a wonderful job playing a trangender woman. This had been an issue for some people in the internet, as apparently people should only play characters that are same like with themselves, but the whole cast succeeded. Haters gonna hate.
In the end, The Danish Girl is a story we all must remember, not just to give perspective, but to remember that in life we all have our struggles, and no matter how big or tiny they are, they matter and make us us. No other person can live our own life or experience it like we do and that is a lesson to learn by heart.