Sensuous in Satin

Reflections on Transgender life

The Danish Girl - review

Posted by Adrian • Thursday, February 4. 2016 • Category: Being transgender
The Danish Girl is billed as a true love story, which may be good marketing as the cinema was nearly full when I saw the film. But it would be more accurate to say that the plot is loosely based on the life story of one of the first transsexuals to attempt sex reassignment surgery. And rather than documenting the blossoming of love between two people it explores how that love is challenged and eventually destroyed by the relentless drive of a transsexual to become a woman.

The film starts with two artists (Einar and Gerda) in a happy loving relationship and finishes with the happiness of Einar in her new body as Lili. Though the Danish Girl is set in the min-1920's it speaks to contemporary issues that many of us have faced in reconciling our relationships with the need to express our gender. Because the drama of the plot is so immediate to us you may find the film deeply moving - I certainly did.


I approached the film expecting to find annoying mistakes in Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of a transsexual - I hardly expect a cis-gendered actor to get it right. So I found it disarming that Einar's struggle with his femininity was so convincing that it was like seeing snapshots of my life, and in the character of Lili I frequently had flash-backs of familiar faces from our community.

The film touched on so many aspects of a transgender life, good and not so healthy. Frequently it was in the small details where I saw a reflection of my own experiences.

It showed the irresistible drive to express our femininity - often catching loved ones by surprise, the way we study other women and so modify our behaviours,

our naivety in assuming that we are fooling others with our femininity,

and the impatience to complete our journey evidenced by overdosing on hormones.

The Danish Girl paints the medical profession in a very poor light. It was painful to watch the inappropriate treatments they came up with for the transsexual condition. Although it shows how far we have come in the last 100 years, it highlights behaviours that you can still observe in contemporary practice. How many more years will we have to wait?

A film just following the journey of Einar into Lili would have provided a good insight into the transgender struggle for anyone interested. But the Danish Girl is about not one, but two Danish girls.


Gerda's reactions to finding her husband transexual will probably speak powerfully to most cinema audiences. Alicia Vikander as Gerda gives a convincing portrayal of the emotional roller coaster rise we so often give our partners. Although, she comes across as the injured party, loosing a husband and his love, her unwavering support to the end is a very positive message to send to the audience.

I can unreservedly recommend that everyone should see the Danish Girl.

It can be an emotional experience so take a hankie.

I expect it will be a seminal movie in promoting a wider understanding of the transgender experience

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