Rooted in the true-life account of Lili Elbe, the first known recipient of sex-reassignment surgery, The Danish Girl chronicles the journey of a heterosexually married couple through the process of acknowledging and accepting transsexuality as a part of their lives, and of their relationship.
In Copenhagen in the 1920s, a man asserting that he was actually a woman born into a man's body was regarded as both a psychosis and a crime. Amidst the already incredibly difficult process of sorting out one partner's transsexuality, Gerda Wegener (portrayed brilliantly by Alicia Vikander) and Lili (portrayed, also brilliantly, by Eddie Redmayne), must deal with the additional trauma of fleeing their home and country to evade the possible prosecution of Lili.
The Danish Girl is not only a story about this experience, though; it is ultimately very much a story about human relationships.
Most relationships are founded in the assumption that each partner will act in a predetermined role. However, over time, as individuals, we evolve and change in infinite ways. This inevitability often dictates an alteration, or even a dissolution, of the roles we once held. Some relationships, for whatever reason, do not survive this process.
But the relationships that DO survive this process represent a love and appreciation that transcends predefined roles. Regardless of this relationship existing between friends, family members, or lovers, the resilience of that bond strengthens and feeds each partner. There is a connection between souls, an unconditional understanding within which we can individually grow and evolve freely without losing that relationship.
When entering into any relationship, it is nearly impossible to accurately predict - or to even expect - that it will be one of those special ones. However, the trials and difficulties and devastations of life help us determine that along the way.
In a traditional heterosexual marriage, a woman assumes the female role of wife, and the man assumes the male role of husband. In 1920s Copenhagen, as in much of the world in the 1920s, the parameters of these roles were not often challenged. The Danish Girl is a representation of the trials, difficulties and devastations one relationship endured in the process of not only challenging, but completely redefining those roles.
Redefining traditional roles is difficult between partners, but that difficulty is compounded exponentially when it entails challenging society, and even more so when challenging biology. Gerda and Lili each had to experience their own excruciating evolutions, but their love for each other survived; that is the truest, purest love there is.
I was profoundly affected by this film. Having been through my own excruciating trials and battles, I cannot deny the excruciating trials and battles my partner endured to still be with me today. It takes a very rare kind of love to let someone go so they can metamorphose into the person they truly are at their core. To then find that love and acceptance still intact on the other side of it all is a gift of singular, immeasurable significance.
In addition to telling the heart wrenching story of Lili and Gerda, The Danish Girl beautifully tells the story of true love.
Be sure to check out The Danish Girl in theaters December 18!