Inspired by the life of transgender artist Lili Elbe, The Danish Girl stars Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander as married painters in 1920s Copenhagen, a place apparently populated by posh Brits.
Initially, I was worried by the idea that audiences will only respond to a transgender woman’s story if it’s presented as a costume drama. But these fears faded faster than you can say Alicia Vikander. The ideas are so sensitively handled, the characters so completely realised, that the film’s mass appeal and awards attention can only be a good thing.
With a wonderfully human screenplay by Lucinda Coxon, the drama is not just about human sexuality, but also marriage, adulthood and identity. Tom Hooper’s painterly direction matches the film’s sophisticated level of understanding and empathy, achieved by treating its characters as real people.
In another breathtaking performance, Redmayne shows that he could be a model of any sex. But it’s Vikander who truly stuns, in the less Oscar-friendly but equally heart-rending role. Also featured are Matthias Schoenaerts, contractually obliged to appear in every costume drama, and Ben Whishaw, obliged to appear in every film.
Hooper’s finest work yet, The Danish Girl is a ravishing portrait of two women: one whose body is not their own; the other whose husband is ceasing to exist. Who says films about painters have to be boring?