Friday, 29 January 2016
The Danish Girl
Yesterday I was watching this interview where Eddie Redmayne described gender as a spectrum. According to this theory different people sit on various different spots on this spectrum, because what really makes a boy or a girl apart from their physical form? Is it that boys like sport? Or girls like drawing? Because that's just so stereotypical.
Other than what our bodies show, how do we know what gender we are? And how do some people feel so far on the spectrum from what their physical form is that they feel the need to change it?
A while ago I read this article on Rookie about a person who couldn't define their gender. They didn't feel male or female, or even right in between. They were kind of just somewhere on that spectrum and they were happy with this undefined gender. This was identity enough for them. I think that's really interesting.
Before watching The Danish Girl I never really acknowledged gender issues. I'd heard of the idea of feeling different and wrong in one's body, but that was it. I'd never heard of the fact that people may feel as if they have two identities rather than just one wrong one, or thought deep enough into how it might affect the people they love, or how this issue was dealt with about a century in the past.
What always gets me about movies is when they're true stories. Knowing that these events happened make the circumstances mean so much more - also knowing they've had a major impact on life today, with Lili being the first ever person to undergo a gender-reassignment operation. There's always that moment at the end where the screen is black and in simple typed letters they tell you what happened after the events of the movie, and the whole thing really just leaves you in shock before you return to your reality.
I don't mean to sound offensive or insensitive in any way, but to be honest, some of the events in the movie made me feel extremely uncomfortable to the point where I just couldn't watch. I had to block my eyes. The fact that this happened made me worry about myself, and wonder if I'm just not as accepting as I think I am. I think it's the fact that I'd never encountered any events of the sort that were happening on the screen in front of me.
The actors were absolutely brilliant, and after watching the movie my mum said to me, "I wonder if Eddie Redmayne is now questioning his masculinity." and to be honest I wouldn't be surprised if he is a little bit after going through all these intense events, whether pretend or not. There was this one incredibly powerful scene where Eddie has to stand in front of the mirror naked and I just can't imagine how it must feel to do something that would seem so private in front of a crew of cameras.
In the interview Eddie talks about Lili's smile throughout the movie. I'd describe it as looking down somewhat shyly and giving an incredibly feminine smile, and apparently that mirror scene is where he tried to make her find it.
Sometimes I wonder what it's like for these actors to practically become the characters they're playing. They're going through the dialogue and actions their characters would be going through, and obviously they have to feel some of it to make everything so believable. It's not just what they do and how they feel though, but also their physical appearance. Imagine how much weight Eddie Redmayne had to lose to look that slender. That's dedication.
I also watched this interview with Alicia Vikander, who plays Einar's (later Lili) wife, where she talks about how she looks up to her character, Gerda, for how strong and accepting she is. From the beginning Gerda was always strong, even when she was happily married. She describes her first kiss with Einar like kissing herself, which made me begin to realise that maybe Lili is quite a lot like Gerda after all - both incredibly brave and stubborn when it comes to their ideas. The scene that really surprised me was when Gerda didn't question Einar when he wore her nightgown, even though she may have viewed this dressing up as part of a game. Einar and Lili are completely themselves around her throughout the entire movie, and I love that quote I remember from the trailer: "I love you because you made me possible."
Einar started dressing up as Lili when Gerda asked him to stand in for one of her models, and according to the text at the end of the movie she continued painting Lili for the rest of her life. Gerda pushed the boundaries of gender in her art with a concept way ahead of her time, and I guess this is another way these events have contributed to our ideas of gender today.
Today people like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox are widely accepted icons, and movies like The Danish Girl are mainstream, inspiring and educational to so many people, so it's amazing how much progress has been made since Lili's time not too long ago. Laverne Cox still speaks about how society focuses on the transition part of transgender people, which taints their ability to live with real experiences, and I wonder when the day will come that gender and changing genders really don't matter.