The Danish Girl

Biopic Films (or biographical pictures) are a sub-genre of the larger drama and epic film genres, and although they reached a hey-day of popularity in the 1930s, they are still prominent to this day. ‘Biopics’ is a term derived from the combination of the words “biography” and “pictures.”

I’ve come to realise that art doesn’t have to instigate a positive reaction.

Biopics are inevitably difficult to watch because they don’t have to follow the conventions of a happy ending, a marriage, a resolution. They can make up the rules which is perhaps why I like them. I like the unpredictability.

In one scene I was disorientated by the constantly changing camera angles and I was unable to work out the size of the room or where each character was stood. It was an incredible technique because it put me in the shoes of the characters, it made me feel lost and like I was endlessly trying to catch up, to understand. I felt a small part of how I imagine Lili and Gerda would have felt.

the-danish-girlIf you don’t want to know the ending of this film, don’t read on. But I have to mention it because it was heartbreaking.

By the end I fully accepted Lili; I one hundred percent believed everything that had happened, it was no longer acting or film-making – it was real. I believed, after being previously so sceptical, that Lili was always Lili. In her dream her mother had called her Lili, she knew that she’d been born Lili and then she died as Lili. It felt like she’d finally achieved what she needed to and she didn’t need to fight any longer.

Although Lili’s life was short because she died of complications in surgery, the film gave the impression that she died in peace. Therefore I felt some resolution for the unimaginable difficulties in her life.


However there was no resolution in Gerda’s life. She was barely mentioned at the end of the film. Unfortunately her life was very tragic and it wouldn’t have provided an uplifting ending but I felt injustice at the fact that her peace didn’t seem as important as Lili’s.

Gerda re-married a man 10 years her junior, moved to Morroco, being even more isolated from what she knew, and then divorced the man 5 years later after a very difficult marriage. She never remarried and she didn’t have children. As a result of the tragedy in her life she turned to drink and died in 1940, aged 54.

I feel quite angry about what happened to her. I know that Lili just wanted to be free but she sacrificed Gerda for this and it never felt like Gerda was asked how she really felt. She grieved for her husband before Lili even died because, mentally, Einar slowly died.

The moments when I most connected with Gerda were when she would come back home and Lili would be there. I couldn’t understand how he could just disappear and I felt, like Gerda may have, that you can’t just forget Einar. Einar and Gerda acted like husband and wife for a long time, they slept together, they can’t just erase that.


The moments when I most connected with Lili were when she had the fits, moments where Einar would tear off the clothes that masked Lili. The relief that Lili felt when the masculine facade was removed was genuinely moving. I adopted the emotion in those scenes, feeling panicky and claustrophobic in the cinema as Lili tried to get free.

Like feeling uncomfortable, feeling panicky and trapped are not emotions I want to feel, but they’re still a reaction and I feel that good art instigates this. A reaction.
I felt like we saw part of Eddie Redmayne’s preparation of becoming that role as we saw Einar’s transformation of becoming a woman. In the film, Lili experimented with the mannerisms and posture of women which presumably Eddie did too.

There was a huge cross-over in this film. It really questioned what a character is. When are we pretending and when are we being truly ourselves? I like that we can see Eddie Redmayne through Lili. He isn’t entirely disguised. Gerda can see Einar through Lili, but she eventually realises that it’s not Lili that’s the disguise but Einar. Lili was hidden behind Einar.

It questioned acting. Where’s the line between truth and pretence? Maybe the best performances are ones that blur the line like Eddie does.

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