Lucinda Coxon’s skilful adaptation of David Ebershoff’s novel is masterfully directed by Tom Hooper. The film benefits from two outstanding permances from leads Alicia Vikander as Gerder Wegerner and the incredible Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener then (after a transgender operation) Lili Elbe. Einar’s feminine side begins to find its place in his life when Gerda asks him to wear stockings and dainty court shoes in replacement of a female model. This proves to be a sexual turnon for them both and it is not long before they together creat ‘Lili’ and are attending society functions as such.
But this is not without some great confusion for them both and this is particularly well depicted in Redmayne’s astonishingly accomplished androgynous performance. You have to remember this is mid 20s Copenhagen and the doctors they consult for his ‘problem’ want to lock him up for schizophrenia. But when they find a sympathetic and forward-thinking doctor in Paris Lili says: ‘I Believe I am a woman,’ and Gerda says: ‘I believe it too.’
Particularly noteworthy is Danny Cohen’s perfect photography with a constant flow of gorgeous mise en scenes while this pure aesthetic is matched in Paco Delgado’s period costumes. The film both begins and ends with the scenography of Einar’s leitmotif landscape paintings and this is given significance as a sexual awakening at an early age. Hooper has been criticised for making a movie that is too mainstream but I think this is exactly why this is a great work of art. It tells the story of gender reassignment without being preachy or including only an LGBT audience. Most importantly it is utterly believable and totally transfixing both in terms of narrative and visual techniques. Beautiful and moving.