Opinion by Larry Murray
Coming up at Images in Williamstown is the stunning – if controversial – film The Danish Girl. As is the usual case in the Berkshires, being an LGBT film, it never played at our commercial cinemas which is why we are all thankful for our two “art” houses, Images and The Little Cinema . The Danish Girl will have a decent run at Images in Williamstown beginning Friday, February 19, 2016 and will run to Feb. 25. Both Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander give powerful performances and both have been nominated for Oscars. The film’s creation was inspired by Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who was one of the first people to receive sex reassignment surgery.
As Brian T. Carney writes in the Washington Blade, “Eve Stewart and Michael Standish were also nominated for Production Design and Paco Delgado was nominated for Costume Design. Director Tom Hooper and Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon were not recognized and the film did not receive a Best Picture nomination. Other LGBT movies fared even worse. Even though Best of Enemies was short-listed in the Best Documentary category, it did not receive a nomination. Likewise Viva and The Club, both of which were short-listed for Best Foreign Language Film, were shut out. – See more on the Oscars and how people of color and LGBT’s fared at the Washington Blade.
Since the film’s initial release last Fall, both it, and the 2000 Ebershoff novel upon which it is based, have received some critical attention for their notable deviations from historical fact. Ebershoff has stated that he did not intend for the book to be an accurate representation of the facts, and that much of the content of his novel – particularly in his characterization of Lili and of Gerda – had instead been fabricated for creative reasons.
As a critic I follow the reviews of LGBTQ films with interest, and as you might gather, even queer critics rarely agree. A number of gay male critics loved the film, but others were not so easy to dazzle.
Ren Jender, who writes in Bitch Flicks strips away the artifice and addresses the inaccuracies: “This film fails on so many levels, it’s hard to pick any one aspect, but Eddie Redmayne deserves special mention. A man in a dress playing a trans women is always objectionable, but Redmayne is so woefully miscast in this role, I’ll go to any protest of the awards he will probably be nominated for. (The film’s central figure) Lili Elbe was one of the first people to undergo gender affirming surgery and the toast of Paris, going to parties and modeling for Gerda in the latest, revealing fashions but Redmayne’s Lili is a whispery, skittish, drag queen full of shame (at least at first) who wears matronly dresses that come up to the neck and stretch down nearly to the ankle. Other trans woman pioneers (in the US, a generation after Elbe) were not shy, retiring or ashamed: think of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Read more of Ren’s thoughts at Bitch Flicks.
Nevertheless, The Advocate named it one of the top films of the year, and Eddie Redmayne himself thought deeply about his responsibilities as an actor: ““When I began preparing for this role and I heard statistics like 41 percent of trans people have considered suicide, learned about the amount of abuse that continues to occur, or the discrimination that’s still legal in so many states — it’s extraordinary. I wanted to know why we aren’t talking more about this,” he says. “What I suppose I’m trying to do is learn to be an ally to the community because I feel it’s important for cisgender people to be allies.” (More)
Redmayne hopes The Danish Girl will inspire cisgender people who may have limited knowledge of transgender issues to begin their own expanded education. Thanks to Images for doing just that.
Images Cinema is located at 50 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA 01267