“I think Lily's thoughts, I dream her dreams. She was always there.”
December 22, 2015 6:43 PM Subscribe
The Danish Girl [YouTube] [Trailer]
- 4 Transgender Actresses Who Could Have Been Cast In The Danish Girl. by Rose Moore [Movie Pilot]
The Danish Girl is a 2015 British-American pseudo-biographical drama film directed by Tom Hooper, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by David Ebershoff. The film stars Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener, Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans Axgil and Ben Whishaw as Henrik.
- 4 Transgender Actresses Who Could Have Been Cast In The Danish Girl. by Rose Moore [Movie Pilot]
The issue, it seems, is a circular one. Studios claim that they don't want to cast a relative unknown in a starring role, in case they simply aren't a talented enough actor. (This despite the many times that unknown actors have been given a big break in a larger role.) There simply aren't very many well-known trans actresses in Hollywood. This is true, but there will never be a huge pool of trans actresses to cast from if there are no roles for them to play!- Danish Girl director Tom Hooper: film industry has 'problem' with transgender actors. by Andrew Pulver [The Guardian]
Without explicitly acknowledging the controversy surrounding the casting of Redmayne, a non-trans actor, in the lead role of Einar Wegener – the real-life Danish painter who underwent a series of operations in the early 1930s to become Lili Elbe – Hooper said: “There’s something in Eddie that is drawn to the feminine; he’s played women before, most notably Viola in Twelfth Night. In our film, Lili is presented as a man for two-thirds of the movie, and her transition happens quite late on, so that played a part in coming to a decision.” Hooper also said that the production had reached out to the trans acting communities in the cities where they shot – London, Brussels and Copenhagen – and ended up casting “40 or 50 trans supporting artists”. He said: “I’m pleased we achieved what we did, but I’m sure there’s more to do.”- The Liberation of Lili in ‘The Danish Girl’ by Rachel Lee Harris [The New York Times]
The androgyny challenge In the postwar 1920s, women’s position in society changed, and so did their clothing, Mr. Delgado said, adding, “We go from a silhouette based on the corset to one that is much more androgynous.” And while that may seem like an assist when dressing a transgender character, in some ways it presented more of a challenge, he said. Clothes were moving away from the body, waistlines were dropping, chests were being de-emphasized, but Lili needed to have a waist. “Men’s bodies are sort of waistless. If you say a man has a waist, it is not a compliment,” Mr. Delgado said. “But for women, it means they are sensual, feminine, and that’s what we wanted to achieve.”- The Danish Girl: Portrait of a Lady by David Sims [The Atlantic]
If there’s an optimistic take on the movie, it’s that at least the circle of Oscar-bait filmmaking has widened to take in the story of one of the first people to have gender-reassignment surgery. Einar, better known as Lili Elbe, was a pioneer in trans history and her life was the subject of a 2000 novel by David Ebershoff, adapted for the screen by Lucinda Coxon. But in the hands of Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables), much of the nuance and complication surrounding her story is stripped away, resulting in a film that’s sensitive and often touching, but not remotely compelling.- Eddie Redmayne: An Education by Paul Flynn [Out]
In the three years between being cast as Lili Elbe and playing her, Redmayne’s research took him far from the texts Lana Wachowski first recommended. He began with Jan Morris’s Conundrum before moving on to Kate Bornstein’s pivotal gender theory work. His first research meeting was with the volubly outspoken and powerful British trans activist Paris Lees. “She was the first person I’d met when the film had been green-lit,” he says, “and she was very kind to me, actually. Gorgeous.”- Laverne Cox on Cisgender Actors Playing Trans Roles by Faran Krentcil [Elle]
Lees took to Redmayne. “I really liked him,” she says. “He’s a nice, affable lad.” The meeting took place at Redmayne’s apartment last summer. “The grand piano didn’t impress me — it was the little details,” Lees explains. “He has lovely cupboard doors. I asked him what he thought of people criticizing him for playing a trans woman. He said, ‘Look, I’ve just played a man in his 50s with motor neuron disease. I’m acting.’ I found that hard to argue with, and it really helped with my thinking on the subject.” There is a potential foreseeable problem in the trans community with the casting. “As a trans woman, I don’t think that if and when they make a biopic of my life I would want a cisgender man playing me,” Lees says. “Politically, it makes me groan. But if anybody’s going to do this justice, then I’m happy it’s Eddie. We had a good chat about everything.”
Both Elle Fanning and Eddie Redmayne have recently come under fire for playing trans characters. Do you think only trans actors should play trans roles?- Regressive, Reductive and Harmful: A Trans Woman's Take On Tom Hooper's Embarrassing 'Danish Girl' by Carol Grant [bent- a Queer blog]
I think only good actors should play those roles. [Laughing.] I haven't seen Elle's movie trailer yet, so I feel ill equipped to discuss it… But I did see the trailer for The Danish Girl and I am so excited. Lili Elbe's story is so important. I hope they get it right. I don't know what that even means, but I hope they do. I was in Berlin for the very first time ever this year, and I got to see photos of Hirschfeld's clinic that was burned down by the Nazis. He had a clinic for human sexuality. Lili got her first gender confirming procedure there.
"The Danish Girl"'s struggle to portray Lili Elbe's story magnifies not only the most glaring weaknesses of both Redmayne and Hooper, but also the cisnormative gaze of the transgender community. You get this in Redmayne's performance, of course, only instead of approximating a single individual, he's approximating femininity itself, ratcheting his exaggerated, nervous physical ticks to 11 when playing both Einar and Lili. As Einar, he's doing a proto-Stephen Hawking, with shaking hands, sad eyes, a sickly complexion, and a breathy voice. As Lili, he performs womanhood by way of stereotype. Amy Nicholson describes it very well in her LA Weekly article: it's “exaggerated, simpering body language, all head-ducking and languid caresses, which she learns studying a peep-show stripper—someone who is herself playacting a faux femininity for men.”- Eddie Redmaybe Simplifies Womanhood in The Danish Girl by Amy Nicholson [LA Weekly]
It's hard to tell how much of The Danish Girl is an oversimplification — or, more interestingly, a rebuke of being “womanly.” Take Caitlyn Jenner, who irritated feminists by announcing herself with a lingerie shoot. Hadn't NOW spent decades telling women they didn't have to dress like Playboy Bunnies? The Danish Girl is being pitched as the story of a brave pioneer — it even uses those words in its concluding title cards — but I suspect Hooper is quietly cross-examining Lili's quest. He surrounds her with cities full of bold, aggressive, loud, strong women, from Ulla the outrageous ballet dancer (Amber Heard) to the brusque fishmongers at the market, yet Lili herself acts more retrograde than every other female in the film. She quits art, obsesses over her weight, and dreams of being a housewife. “I want to be a woman, not a painter,” she sighs. Supportive Gerda finally snaps, “Well, some people have been known to do both.”- The True Story Behind The Danish Girl by Jessica Goldstein [Think Progress]
Elbe was living in Copenhagen during the 1910s and 1920s, the period between the World Wars, which was “kind of a high-water mark for trans and queer culture in Europe,” said Stryker. “It was Jazz Age Europe. The cities were becoming electrified. There’s nightlife, there’s jazz music, there’s flappers… It was a really exciting time. That is what starts to get rolled back in 1933. So if anything, I think, rather than representing Elbe’s life as ‘Oh my God, you were surviving in the Dark Ages!’ it’s like, ‘This is Rome before the fall.’ This was, in some ways, the height of modernity. Before fascism, really, gained political power. In some ways I see it as being very easy. It’s more like a precursor to the contemporary period, rather than something that was almost a century ago.” Elbe was a pioneer by choice, but also by chance: she happened to come of age a time when “there were new possibilities for who and what a person could be.” Medical and legislative progress were on Elbe’s side. “There’s this kind of a nascent sense of possibility for the transformability of human self through medical science that is exactly what Elbe is exploring, and Gerda along with her. They were grasping the potential for something new, and it’s really exciting.”- How The Danish Girl Forgets About the Girl by Richard Lawson [Vanity Fair]
I a computer were programmed to create the perfect Oscar movie in 2015, it would probably look something like The Danish Girl, director Tom Hooper's stately, overwhelmingly stylish period melodrama about Danish artist Lili Elbe, the first known transgender woman to undergo sexual-reassignment surgery, and her devoted wife, painter Gerda Wegener. Every required part of an awards movie is there: stellar cast (Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander), lush cinematography, plaintive score, a stirring social message. But despite, or perhaps because of, all that perfect, well-appointed polish, there is something rather lifeless at the heart of this well-meaning film. It concerns a topic with true relevance to today, but that urgency is too often drowned out by Hooper's heaps of aesthetic indicating, and by Redmayne's fastidious, oddly self-conscious performance.- The Incredibly True Adventures of Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe by Nadya Lev [Coilhouse] [NSFW Illustrations]
This is the true story of turn-of-the-century lesbian romance, erotic Deco illustrations rife with harlequins and crinolines, the world’s first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, and the 1950s pulp novel that brought it all to light. The story begins one hundred years ago. In 1912, artist couple Gerda and Einar Wegener arrived in Paris, hoping for greater prosperity and freedom than their conservative hometown of Copengahen would allow. They checked into the Hôtel d’Alsace, where – they were shocked to learn – they had been placed into the very same room where Oscar Wilde had once died twelve years earlier. The couple spent the next few days reading Wilde’s works out loud to each other. The forbidden sexuality, transformation, beauty and tragedy in Wilde’s work was reflected in the couple’s following years together.
*This link was posted previously on the blue but I linked it here again for the sake of context.
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