For Reel

The Danish Girl (2015)
January 7, 2016, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tom Hooper
3 Stars
The Danish GIrlShortly into The Danish Girl, a Danish painter named Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is coaxed by his wife, Gerda Gottlieb (Alicia Vikander), into fitting into leggings in order for her to finish a portrait. This gesture spurs on a game of crossdressing between the two before finally Einar reveals that what initially played as an innocent fetish is actually a crisis of identity. In the early-goings, The Danish Girl is on good-footing–there’s a playfulness and vivacity between Redmayne and Vikander, with the latter in particular reveling in a childish glee at the thought of embarking on any erotic endeavor that breaks the status quo. But this crucial moment in the film is representative of everything that it gets wrong. There is little sense that Lili exists before Einar tries on the leggings, and indeed the fact that it starts as a fascination with crossdressing suggests that the desire is completely about exteriors. When the film argues for Lili’s interiority or that this struggle has been a lifelong issue, the film feels disingenuous–as with Tom Hooper’s directing style, this is a film that seems merely interested in surface. Hooper’s gotten a tough rap, now serving as the prime exemplar of a brand of ordinary British “quality” pictures. But there is something visually compelling about his wide-angle, fishbowl lens, which distorts his sparse interiors with their cracked wallpaper and rows of open doorways. But his conception of plot has never matched his fascination with these images–it’s as if he conceives of interiors in the way that Shirley Clarke might have, but hasn’t learned to find an identity outside the tradition of Merchant-Ivory prestige. His failing reputation might mark a more interesting crisis than the one The Danish Girl purports to tell, as the film itself serves as a metaphor for a director grappling with his insistence on artifice over substance.

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