The Danish Girl

I liked the paint color on the walls in the apartment in Denmark.  I liked the doorways and hallways.  I liked the paintings.  I liked the orange row houses in Copenhagen.  I liked the curve of flat buildings on the the curved street scene where they were talking too loud late at night.  I loved the costumes – and it a way it was all about costume.  Costume was the catalyst for change.  Here you had a beautiful, sensitive lad who was wise enough to like a stocking, and that liking led to the sorrowful, painful ruination of his particular life.  Little did he know that his own pain would be the catalyst for the medical field to improve upon its practice and allow for others, later, to undergo a transition to let their inner Lilies blossom.  He became the leader of a movement – but that was after he was dead.

I liked how the Parisian apartment’s excess contrasted with the Danish apartment’s bareness.   Without a word, that spoke of two cultures.  I liked how wide was the black leather booth in which the woman sat with the other man, sipping French wine.  I liked how the beige and flowered scarf kept going from one to the other so that it was poised to take flight at the end – this was the breath-catching moment at the end which soared beyond the clutches of this particular story up into the mystery that is life and death.  The movie is worth it just to fly with the scarf.  That was the moment.

But – and here’s the but – did I love it?  I’m with Aristotle and Steven King.  The main character has to make some choices.   “The Danish Girl” was constructed precisely to show how Lily had no choice.  When the wife said at one point that she needed Lily to be Einar, Lily said, “I can’t.”  So to watch Einar-LiDanish girlly’s transformation was like watching a plant grow.  Steven King never liked what Kubrick did to his characters in “The Shining” because he made Jack into a character without choice.  Steven King’s Jack made a choice each time to take a drink.  Kubrick’s Jack couldn’t help but be a monster:  he had no choice.  This makes “the shining” itself be the protagonist of the film.  In “The Danish Girl” I say gender constriction is the protagonist.  The choice maker was actually the wife, even though we cannot call her the protagonist.  The wife underwent a human transformation:  she had a “character arc.”  She grew from a sexy young girl to a painter to a successful painter to a woman who needs a man to a woman who grants her man the external grace to undergo his own plant-life transformation.  It is she who really knows what love is on all its sides, it’s silky surfaces and its snags.  Lily is a sacrificial lamb, tossing out her own life for the good of the history of those who were to come after her who feel trapped in their bodies.  Lily the plant died so others could live.  She had to.  A stocking got to her.  The gay movement has chosen – well, chosen or forced – to claim that there is no choice to being gay or being caught in an incorrect body.  Our culture has chosen – well, chosen or relinquished – to accept that gayness is not a choice.

Oh, and I liked the dog.  Great casting.  Half the dog’s face was dark and half was light.  If only we would each leave ourselves as half and half rather than insisting that we are one thing or another thing.  Is nuance that difficult?  It is the cultural insistence that we be all girl or all boy, all left or all right, all black or all white, all straight or all gay that has us so flummoxed and causes some to take irreversible steps that often end tragically.  I am sure that some sex change ops end ok, but we do not hear much of those stories.  Maybe I just missed them.  Comments welcome!

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