The Danish Girl: A ballet of freedom

 The Danish Girl brings on screen the real story of one of the first women to undergo the gender reassignment surgery.

Lili is a beautiful woman trapped in a male body, her strenght shows as the one of a butterfly breaking the cocoon to bring colours in the world. Her strenght is elegant and shy at times, but fierce and certain.

The main actor gifts us with a breathtaking performance, he dances in Lili’s clothes offering a very good representation of transgender people.

The movie has no easy “happy ending”, it is no secret to those who know the woman’s story, but I think it is a movie of happiness. It’s a story of freedom, of love, of discovering real happiness and pursuing it with head held up high.

The performance of Eddie Redmayne certainly moved me, the emotion and passion he put in every action gave music to the story and light to the character.

What I like about the movie – and what earned it some negative reviews – is that drama is not the main aspect. It is not ignored, of course, but it doesn’t lead the story. There’s a certain lightness – that has annoyed some people – to the story, as if the process of Lili learning to come out and express herself were seen in a dreamy way. As if underwater, with lights and colours mixing with music and softly spoken words of wonder.

People might not like the choice not to show off the drama of this woman’s story, but I think it’s what we needed. We are so used to see the drama in the life of those who are “different”, but we seldom get to see the happiness, the freedom, the wonder.

The Danish Girl is not, in any way, a drama-free movie, quite the opposite. But drama doesn’t own the stage, people have complained about the movie underestimating and not showing Lili’s suffering enough. I do not agree. They have showed it, they just never made pain the protagonist. Which is something I’m grateful for, and not because I don’t like heavy movies full of sorrow.

When a movie or show on TV talks about the “differents”, the “weirds”, their lives are always portrayed as hard and painful, full of suffering because of the society they live in and because of how they have to face a realisation such as being born in a wrong body. The Danish Girl chooses not to do that. It shows Lili’s birth more than her struggle. The suffering is there, it is greatly portrayed, they just don’t make too much of a show of it. The real show is the light of Lili’s personality and her strenght.

Which might not be completely accurate according to the book this movie is based on, because Lili Elbe’s life was in fact full of suffering and in no way easy. But is it bad that The Danish Girl, even though showing a story with no standard happy ending, decides to portray happiness and the strenght of a woman who fights? Is it bad that this movie is filled with hope and joy even though it talks about a hard and painful reality that once was (and still is to many levels)? I think not.

Another flaw attributed to the movie would be that Lili is played by a cisgender actor instead of a transgender one. I believe that’s a good thing. The actor’s job is to act, to performe, to be somebody he/she is not. And I believe Eddie did an impressive job at it. Some say he was acting too much, too obviously, it looked like Lili herself was acting. And she was, in a way. Because, as I said, a good part of the movie is seen as in a dream and Lili seems to dance on a stage. And I like it, although people might prefer seriousness all the time. I like it because the creators are humble enough not to think they understand how Lili felt, being a woman trapped in a male’s body at her time, and they show it as in a performance, with art instead of with words.

So I want to finish with: do watch this movie. It is a beautiful performance with great acting from both Eddie and his co-star Alicia Vikander who plays Lili’s wife. The end is beautiful and it doesn’t feel like a failed attempt at freedom, it feels like a victory. Personally I really liked watching it and I think it’s more modern that many many movies.


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