The Danish Girl

The film The Danish Girl is very beautiful. Colourful houses are reflected in choppy water; the focus changes from rain on a foggy window to the face behind; parks and cobbled streets and the countryside are lovely. The dresses are lovely: a cis friend said she wanted every one of them.

My radical feminist friend was prepared to be angry at politically correct trans propaganda, but loved the film as a love story, of Gerda for Einar. Gerda’s love continues, though Lili claims she is a different person from Einar. Comprehensive spoilers ahead: I want to discuss the relationships, and the development of both as artists.

Gerda and Einar’s sex life is established early as full and happy. In their first scene together Einar is in bed, and coaxes Gerda to come back. Einar has no thought of being Lili until she needs a model for a painting she is working on. The dancer whose portrait it is has not appeared, so Gerda asks Einar to put on stockings and shoes so she can paint the leg. Einar refuses to put the dress on, but she drapes it over her, and she loves the fabric.

I feared it being a forced feminisation fantasy, as some commented. That is definitely my thing- yet I did not find the film arousing, to my relief in this company. I hated Lili for rejecting Gerda, but Gerda wants her husband: she is so frustrated she comes on to Hans, Einar’s childhood friend, now an art dealer- but flees when he responds, to his frustration.

Quacks propose incarcerating Einar as schizophrenic, or for perversion (which is a mental illness, they say), or point a radioactive source at her privates. Eventually Lili meets a doctor who will operate as she wishes.

Gerda is established as a strong woman. She paints some fat burgher, and tells him men are not used to be subjected to a woman’s gaze. He squirms. Yet her paintings are unsuccessful. The dealer will not exhibit them- until she paints Einar as a woman. Einar paints the same scene of a row of five trees before a lake again and again, successfully; she “has not finished with it yet”; but as Lili works in a department store. She does not want to be a painter, but a woman- as if despite knowing Gerda she believes one cannot be both.

At one point, Einar visits a place where naked women perform for men behind glass, the forerunner of webcam porn. Einar mimics the woman’s poses and movements. Immediately she realises, and leads Einar in a series of poses which delight then upset and confuse her. Either the sex worker is quick on the uptake, or more than Einar respond like this.

As I expected, I recognised experiences from my past, and felt the pain anew: the first time out, embarrassed by my voice; and being read. Einar, dressed flamboyantly male in a Paris park, is beaten up by two men who may be gay themselves.

The real Lili dies in an operation, but not the original vaginoplasty. When she dies, I was filled with anger and resentment. I wept at the pain of all of us.

The Danish Girl poster

12 thoughts on “The Danish Girl

  1. Yes I was sad at Lili dying, I felt cheated somehow but you know, the great thing I took away from watching the film is the capacity of pure love to overcome terrible hurdles and circumstance…I felt towards the end – around the time of operation before Lili dies – that Gerda acknowledged and accepted a pure love for Einar despite the fact she knew she could never have him as husband but that love without the physical compliment seemed enough to carry her through life…

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    • One could see the film as anti-transition. Transition breaks their relationship, obsesses Lili to the exclusion of all else, turns her from a successful artist into a shop-girl, and finally kills her with this terribly dangerous operation. (All operations are far safer now). The film shows Lili’s desperation, just as I felt. Having survived the op, I am liberated.

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      • Hm, I saw it differently and quite positive for Lili/Einar i.e. the fact that Lili wanter to be a shop girl instead of artist which Einar was I saw as way to fulfil the intrinsic need to live a woman’s life without the pressures that say being an artist brings – so Lili chose to work in store which I didn’t see as degrading but something representing an industry in which women more than men worked and a job which did not have as much pressure so she Lili could enjoy the feeling of living as a woman…yes Lili was desperate but that desperation to me appeared more as an intrinsic need she had to satisfy so desperation might be a bit too strong ? But certainly the film focused on intrinsic needs of both Lili/Einar and Gerda… Good to hear you’re liberated the best liberation Lili felt was seeing herself as baby Lili in her mother’s arms – that final acceptance and peace of mind I thought she strove for

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      • Redmayne seems quite the golden boy, and he certainly looks stunning as Lili on the poster above. I remember Pink saying a while ago about the whole point of acting is just that. It’s about being successful at creating something. I’ve seen Michael Gambon play Othello (not black), Vivien Leigh was Scarlett (hardly a southern belle) and the list goes on. If Redmayne was good and successfully portrayed Einer’s transformation into Lili then surely that is the essence of it. Your comment about not wanting to act male is an interesting one, and one that I could understand. To portray Lili, but having to start out as Einar seems sort of back to front for a trans woman, going back to the past.

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  2. I thought it was a beautiful film too, one of the most impressive in terms of costumes, cinematography etc that I’ve seen in a long time. I like Redmayne in the character, but I suspect if I saw more of his roles I’d find him a bit samey – that’s the first film I’ve seen him in. I thought Vladimir Putin was thoroughly miscast, and almost ruined the film …

    Quiner sees it as celebrating all things trans and being dangerous. I see it as one person’s story, a real story that can help people see life from another perspective. I think it did a good job.

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    • Hans is stereotype Masculine: Possibly, reassuring if you have been in relationship with someone as fey as Lili. Quiner wants everyone stuck in some ridiculous, impossible cliche Manliness or Femininity, and claims it is Decreed by God, as written by the clever fools of his church. His comment Discrimination is reserved primarily for Christians who are jailed, fined, and lose their businesses if they simply follow their religious beliefs in marriage and sexuality shows he is completely unable to see anything from anyone else’s point of view. He should get protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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