Watching this film is an incredible experience, it received 10 minutes of standing ovation at the premiere in Venice and I would like to predict that it will become an absolute cult classic and will be showered with oscars. At least Eddie Redmayne’s and Alicia Vikander’s performance. In terms of oscars and in comparison, Eddie Redmayne is giving Johnny Depp a run for his money (both have already been mentioned in connection to the oscars). Redmayne really ventures into depths of acting where other actors might fear to tread. The film opens with beautiful shots of the reflection of a tree and other images of the childhood of Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who was born in 1882.

Wegener got married to the wonderfully vivacious painter Gerda Gottlieb, both of them being painters you just know that something might go wrong, maybe one of them will be more successful than the other? Their relationship is changing slowly when Gerda playfully asks Einar to put on women’s clothes in the absence of her actual model and Einar discovers that he enjoys wearing women’s clothing and that for the first time in his life he really feels really himself. Eventually Einar Wegener becomes the famous Lili Elbe and stops painting altogether. Redmayne’s performance is as beautiful and delicate as Einar Wegener’s tree paintings. He allows himself to really become this other person right in front our very eyes without ever being pathetic, alienating or cheesy. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is the second main character in this picture and just as important, this story is as much hers as it is his. Vikander owns the movie effortlessly, by showing a lot of facets and has a wide range of emotions. The film has a wonderful flowing rhythm and doesn’t ever drift off into a boring costume drama mode, but takes its subject very seriously. It’s a true story and a bit of research quickly shows that Gerda became very successful with the Lili portraits and later also became the leading illustrator of the art deco movement, but by then the film strongly focuses on Lili who decides to have an operation to actually become a real woman. The relationship between Gerda and Einar/Lili is very important in the movie, the fact is that they got divorced in 1923, because they were now both women and couldn’t be married under Danish law. The film comes across as timeless, the time might be the early 19th century but it has a very modern feel to it. The cinematography by Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech) is stunning and makes you feel like you are in a painting for most of the time. Overall this film is a beautiful, delicate gem and it will remain on your mind and in your memory long after you’ve emerged back from the movies into your own reality.

Feature by Barbara Stanzl

Barbara Stanzl

Barbara Stanzl

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