Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Danish Girl

"I love you, because you're the only person who made sense of me. That made me possible"

So it’s time for the Academy to kick themselves in the teeth for giving the Oscar to Redmayne last year right? It does seem that way as it would have given them an opportunity to give the award to the more deserving Michael Keaton (we nearly had Batman winning an Oscar, how awesome would that have been?) and they wouldn’t have to stress much about giving it to him this year for a superior performance. Problem solved ….and then Leo came along in ‘The Revenant’ and even this alternate reality plan has gone to hell, anyway moving on ….
The true story of painter Einar Wegener (Redmayne) who is happily married to an amateur artist Gerda (Alicia Vikander). One day Gerda asks her husband to act as a female model for one of her artworks by posing in silk stockings and satin slippers, but this inadvertently sets Einar on a path to her true self.
While Tom Hooper has made a name directing films that hit on a social zeitgeist by reaching into the past ‘The Danish Girl’ would appear to present him with the potential to craft his most relevant and poignant one yet as well as one that challenges some social traits of the modern day maybe? While there is a lot to admire in ‘The Danish Girl’ it does none of the things I just suggested.
While I understand the concept of presenting this story in a more prestigious way the film seems to lose some of its potential relevance as I rarely see it as an important story that needed to be told, I see it more as awards bait. Now I admit that is rather unfair as half of the films released at this time would also be aiming to grab an award but I just have the feeling that the film is automatically trying to appeal to a wider audience by presenting its subject matter in a less explicit manner. Rather than being challenging it presents itself as luxurious and esteemed film.
Maybe that is intentional, as after all a film can have the answer to world peace but it makes little difference if only a select group of people are willing or able to watch it. Casting Redmayne in the role has been controversial for reasons that I won’t try to discuss because frankly, I’m not in a position to do so and I do not personally know anyone that is either (I guess I should expand my social circle). I will however say this, when you consider the achievements of ‘Tangerine’ and reflect on how that is a ground breaking film in almost every sense of the term, one can’t help but be disappointed that the big studio picture has a lot less to say than the tiny indie flick.
So while it may appear that by playing it safe the film could avoid alienating anyone and simply convey its message in the simplest form, ‘The Danish Girl’ never quite hit me on an emotional level. It’s an exquisitely crafted film, make no mistake, but it’s made to appeal to that side of you and rarely evokes a deeper emotion. Once again I have to refer to ‘Tangerine’ (which you really have to see if you haven’t already) as a film that connected with me emotionally when it didn’t even need to. It was filmed entirely on a phone, I’m already impressed, but by including such a compelling and entertaining story the film went from strength to strength. ‘The Danish Girl’ never really evolves into anything else as it progresses.
Concerning Redmayne’s performance, it is probably as good as one would expect from him by this point as he fully commits to the transformation, gradually altering his mannerisms as he does so as well as coming across as confused, conflicted and vulnerable. It is a much more subtle process than ‘The Theory of Everything’. Hooper’s direction and Danny Cohen’s cinematography draws more attention to his physical appearance as well to further emphasise the process, to impressive effect.
However, it is not Redmayne that steals the show here. Alicia Vikander, who is having a great year with ’Ex Machina’ also to her credit, (on a side note, to any casting director listening, hire Alicia Vikander immediately, whatever role it is doesn’t matter, she can do it brilliantly) proves astonishingly versatile in this role alone, she becomes supportive, caring, energetic, enthusiastic and just as conflicted as her husband and ultimately, grief stricken. While she is clearly joyous that Einar can be happy she has effectively lost the man she fell in love with and Vikander conveys every emotion with such grace, depth and brilliance that she really steals the show here, if anyone from this film deserves an Oscar, its Vikander first.
Worth experiencing for the performances, especially Vikander’s, and design, not necessarily for the safe story.
Result: 6/10

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