Like a livelier, yet absurd version of Girl with a Pearl Earring.
There are some major similarities between Tulip Fever and Girl with a Pearl Earring – both are set in 17th century Holland, involve a portrait painter, and star a beautiful and talented young actress of the day. However compared with its slow-moving yet authentic predecessor, the tale of Tulip Fever is much too far-fetched to be taken seriously.
Orphan Sophia (Alicia Vikander) marries the considerably older Cornelis Sandvoort (Christopher Waltz) as part of a deal in order to leave the orphanage where she lives and send her siblings to live with relatives abroad. Out of obligation to her husband, Sophia does her best to be a good wife in spite of having no feelings for him. That is, until the young artist Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan) is commissioned to paint their portrait.
Alicia Vikander is no doubt a talent, but I feel she was miscast in this role as she is much too stiff to display a compelling amount of emotion. The same goes for Dane DeHaan. What could have been a very special and fascinating relationship between the two characters comes across as mundane and boring. Christopher Waltz is his usual unnerving self and does very well with what he has to work with. Judi Dench is absolutely spot-on in her minor role as the orphanage nun.
On the one hand it’s good that the plot doesn’t just stay in one place – it does twist and turn. However some of the storyline seemed to go completely against the nature of the characters and what they would have done in certain situations.
I can’t fault the costumes and sets, the way it was shot and the overall feel of the film which i’m sure has taken inspiration from paintings of the Dutch masters. However these things don’t do enough to make up for the weaker aspects of the film.
With 2015 being the year of Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transformation, there was no time like the present to release a film dealing with the struggles of someone who comes to terms with the fact that they are transgender. Perfect timing, yes – but The Danish Girl is not an especially remarkable film in and of itself.
In 1920s Copenhagen, married artists Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) seem like a solid pair with 6 years of matrimony under their belts. That is until Gerda needs Einar’s help in posing as a woman for a portrait. The film is based upon a book which is a work of fiction loosely based upon the story of the real Einar and his wife.
Eddie Redmayne’s performance is marvelous in some ways, and falls short in others. On the one hand he already has the feminine characteristics in his face, he is perfect for the role from that perspective. Yet I still found it too much of a stretch for him to be believable in the admittedly taxing role. Some of the scenes are extremely ‘in-your-face’ as far as the discovery of his true female self (named Lili Elbe), and it was difficult to separate the actor from the character in these scenes especially. I’m not sure if it’s a lack in the acting or whether it’s just too much of an ask to come across as entirely genuine. He seemed to be stuck in a smiling facial expression whenever he was acting as Lili. According to Redmayne, this was deliberate – however it did seem odd that she would be smiling even when she was reacting to something negative.
There are some points that you can’t fault about The Danish Girl. The costumes, the period setting, and Alicia Vikander’s portrayal of frustration as his long-suffering wife.
On a side note – what’s up with the discrepancies between accents in some films? Eddie Redmayne has kept his British accent, Alicia Vikander’s accent sounds decidedly British as well – the only one in the film who has put any sort of effort into a convincing Danish accent is Amber Heard in her minor role as their friend Ulla. She deserved special mention here purely on the effort, the Danish accent is quite subtle yet it actually makes a big difference.
If the subject matter is particularly interesting to you, it’s worth a look. The overall vibe is a bit like ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ so if you enjoyed that you will probably like this as well.
The Danish Girl premieres in Sweden on February 5.