Danish painter Einar is living is 1926 Copenhagen, together with his fellow painter wife Gerda. With a lack of new inspiration for her work, Gerda turns to her husband for a unfamiliar muse in the form of a woman persona – Lily. Dumbfounded by this unconventional transformation, Einar then finds solace in this modification to his appearance. The paintings of Lily begin to gain high recognition across in Paris, initiating unconventional contemplations over a conflicting persona within himself. Testing their six year marriage to new limits, the pair face tough decisions as Lily craves to emerge entirely through uncertain surgeries.
Based loosely around the heavy, overlooked true story of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, this is a unconventional love tale about discovering who you truly are, despite appearances. The once difficult subject of gender and identity is a prominent focus and it’s something I wasn’t even planning on reviewing. It’s not necessarily something that wold initially appeal to me when it comes to film entertainment, but I was still intrigued as to how it would be depicted. The strong and important emotion from this feature makes it seem that an ensuing review was a necessity.
Initially reluctant to wear the lady’s garments when requested by his portraitist wife, we begin to see Einar experience peculiar emotions as he recognises a familiar feeling from his past. Contrasting today’s more modern approach to accepting individualities, Lily is directed to find a cure to the emotions she encounters. Back in the early 19th century, these kinds of feelings would have come across as a form of madness, which is exactly the kind of response this character is greeted by when she seeks out help, with very few able to understand her differences.
A Love Torn
At times, it proved to be uncomfortable to watch. One scene in particular shows Lili fully exploring the body she’s been given and it’s painful to view the the displeasure and discomfort that is characterised. Overall, I wasn’t completely sure how to feel after viewing the genuinely truthful rendition. The honest acceptance from Gerda is heart-breaking to witness. Despite everything, she is always a constant anchor through the troubles. When it comes down to it, this is essentially a tragic love story. A story of two seemingly ordinary and happily married individuals that drastically changes under wearisome circumstances.
More than just a character, Lily is a whole other person that is determined to be free from her alien male body. Originally starting out as just an invention from the married pair, she evolves into a lot more that that because of the feelings that were rediscovered through the exotic experiment. She then begins to become more and more prominent, no matter how unfavourably timed during awkward situations. This all contributes more to the realness of the character that is personified. The audience is able to follow the struggle of this trapped woman’s journey from start to finish.
Primarily, it was the incredible performance of acclaimed Eddie Redmayne that kept my attention. For moments, it’s easy to forget that this is an actor. The transformation he portrays is an involving and real performance that is beautifully convincing. In fact, it is one of the focal reasons why I saw this film to begin with. A year ensuing his excellently captivating display in The Theory of Everything, Redmayne has returned to pursue yet another luminous transformation and subsequently displaying a truthful, earnest portrayal of a such a compassionate theme that has been more widely acceptable over time.