On January 22th The Danish Girl debuted in Poland as Dziewczyna z portretu. I have watched this film the very next day, and for the next days I’ve been reading many reviews of the said film.
This post will have two parts: my review of the film and comments about the reviewers and their opinions. I hope that I’ll give some pieces of thought to all those LGBT supporters who claim to act on our behalf.
Let’s watch the trailer first.
A lot of people put disclaimers as to their identity when commenting on the film, so I’ll do it too. For the last 20 years I’ve known that I’m bisexual and transgender. I identify as a transsexual and that’s all you should know. I didn’t think I should tell the whole world about it, just like I don’t announce other things. But it’s important here so I say it clearly.
If you follow my blog for a while, you should already know that I dislike Hollywood type of films and look for another, not so biased perspective.
I didn’t read too much about the film, I wasn’t looking up any facts on Gerda’s/Lili’s lives and most certainly I didn’t treat Lili as an icon or legend. I had NO EXPECTATIONS and went to see the film barely knowing basics including it’s based (more INSPIRED) and not the biographical film. I haven’t ever seen any films with the main actors or by the director so I got no expectations in this case too.
My impressions on The Danish Girl
I loved the film. I’m bi, trans and I loved it. Now, you can stop reading. 😉
But why? It was visually beautiful. It was a calm, intimate film focused on two people. There wasn’t any looking up for scandals or overdramatisation. I love how the film dealt with many things in a delicate manner. They weren’t obviously stated but they were stated and shown on screen.
As for the acting, dunno why but I loved the cast. I could totally believe in the gender dysphoria of Einar/Lili, I loved Gerda’s acting and the other roles.
I loved how the film didn’t focus on Lily but on BOTH sides. I loved how the narrative took side of Gerda sometimes and showed the partner’s perspective. It made me understand a bit how the other side can feel at the coming out times.
There were some mishaps, places where something could be better explained, but it wasn’t anything major. Some scenes were cliche, but it didn’t break the film. The film wasn’t really Hollywood-like. It was sensible. It felt real, and I’m not the only trans that thinks like that.
If I would have to classify the film it would be something like: a family film or a toned down film. Not drama, not the social issues film etc. For me it resembles Suzanne Vega’s Luka, a song about domestic violence in a catchy pop/rock tune. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t really get the meaning behind this song.
Other people’s impressions
I think the main problem of the film is that it didn’t fit into people’s expectation what it should be and how it should be made. So, no transwoman playing main character (I didn’t mind it, it was closer to Lili’s experiences this way), too much/too little drama, switching between identities, too little social issues etc. I think also the people projected the current situation somewhere (else) on the film about a certain person in a certain time in a certain place and in a certain social group. It is different. And tho sometimes transfolk experiences are similar, obviously their lives are their own lives and you can’t fit them into a form. Which a lot of people wanted to do with this film and were angry/disappointed it didn’t fit those.
It’s important to note that many people missed the important things and claimed they weren’t there (be it Gerda or Lily related or LGBT related). They were there, they weren’t diregarded, but obviously the audience wanted more of a certain form and style, which they weren’t given. It’s just a 2 hours time, you can’t seriously explain everything given more exposure, can you?
Many people expressed dissatisfaction with how the staff did leave out the transpeople out aka not having the transwoman play the part. Let’s leave it out. I want to show you something else. It’s the cis/hetero supporters (or so they claim) that dismiss the LGBT people’s experience and voice. THEY say how the film should look like without any or too little thought on how do trans people look at it. THEY say how EVERYBODY ELSE should look at the film. That is a really sick idea of supporting and erasing our voice from being heard or regarded as important. Not the using cis actor to play trans.
Some examples in English:
So yeah watch for the lovely scenery and costumes, but if you want quality trans and bisexual representation, look elsewhere. I seriously discourage queer people from seeing this movie.
I encourage everybody. There was a quality trans and bisexual representation. It’s just a two hours film about a certain relationship at certain time and place. Get over it.
Okay, in the name of full disclosure, I’m a cis/het woman who loves history, sweet romance, and beautiful costumes, very much a member of The Danish Girl’s target audience. And that’s a problem.
I didn’t see that the film was for cis/het women. I felt it was a film good for both sides – cis and trans. I felt like I was a part of the target audience. I enjoyed the film. And I’m not cis and het woman. But it’s she who thinks she can decide and proclaim the audience. Who is doing the erasure here?!
(…) I once asked a trans woman how she wished to see trans-ness represented on screen, and she said she wanted to see it presented as an opportunity rather than a curse. That’s something that I think about A LOT. Yes, there’s hardship, but the possibilities of living happily as one’s true self are immense and astounding. The Danish Girl falls into a lot of old, tired, harmful tropes about queer people who do nothing but suffer and then die. Lili had to *earn* her identity though immense suffering, rather than just being female and that’s it. (…)
One trans person is not enough as a sample to claim something on behalf of a very big and diversified community. There are always good and bad times and struggling. Ask a domestic violence victim about the good times – they were too. The possibilities are just possibilities. The Danish Girl is a history based on experiences of a real person. Why does the blogger dismiss that and want to twist it so it fits her wicked ideas? Lili had to fight for her identity and she died chasing her dream (she wanted to give birth to children). We can see the possibilities of living happily as one’s true self (the store and around) but you can’t deny the suffering. The reality is bittersweet.
The thing that’s so frustrating about The Danish Girl is that, yes, ultimately, the story of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener *is* a beautiful story about how love trumps sex and gender, it just wasn’t the sad hetero story presented in The Danish Girl. It’s a trans fiction written by cis people dumbed down and straight-washed for cis/het audiences. Lili and Gerda deserve better.
It wasn’t a hetero love story. The author didn’t watch it well enough. Love didn’t trump over sex and gender because their relation in the end fell apart tho the closeness/intimacy stayed. The relationship between Gerda and Einar/Lily evolved through the film. Yes, it is a fiction written by cis people but ones who really tried to dig in the topic, did meaningful research etc. I do not feel offended by it. Definitely the film wasn’t not dumbed down and not straight-washed. It felt real/realistic.
There you go. That’s all I want to say, I think. Unless you have some comments.
Did you watch the film?