The Danish Girl. Pretty As A Picture.

the-danish-girl-posterHaving won the 2015 Best Actor Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of Stephen Hawkins, Eddie Redmayne could have been forgiven for taking a few months off to rest on his not inconsiderable laurels. Certainly that’s what The Sloth would have done.  And our laurels would have resided on a beach in the Caribbean, right next to a hammock, Piña Colada and copies of our hastily cobbled together autobiography to sign and fleece to the adoring masses. Kerching.

 

Eddie, bless, is clearly of more earnest mind for he was soon taking on another hugely challenging role, that of Einar Wegener in The Danish Girl. A successful artist living in Copenhagen in the 1920’s, Einar was shy, awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin. On marrying fellow artist, the beautiful and self confident Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), Einar found himself sitting for her in lieu of a female model she was painting. Fascinated by the stockings, shoes and dress of the absent model, Einar tried them on, creating his own female alter ego, quickly christened Lili.

 

The ethereal ‘Lili’ stimulated a creative frenzy from Gerda, who painted multiple portraits of her which were exhibited to great acclaim to a world oblivious to the fact Lili was a man. And as the world rejoiced in Lili so did Einar, who realised he was far happier as Lili than as himself. So began a traumatic period of medical assessment until he found a pioneering doctor who agreed to attempt previously untested gender realignment surgery.

 

The Danish Girl is visually stunning. As much about art, beauty and perception as it is about transgender issues, each scene is carefully composed in the same muted colours as the paintings Einar and Gerda produce. Will Eddie add another gong to the mantelpiece? We think not, actually. Yes, he’s a very pretty woman with cheekbones to die for, but there’s too much reliance on fey glances and wafty hands for it to be a truly great performance. However Alicia Vikander is fabulous, giving a heartbreaking performance as the utterly selfless Gerda, who was prepared to lose the husband she adored if it meant he was happy.  It doesn’t quite reach the dizzy heights it aspires too, but it’s still a moving tale of devotion and love in the most complex of emotional circumstances. Now go take that holiday, Eddie.

UK release 1 Jan 2016

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The Theory Of Everything. A Brief History Of A Remarkable Time.

TheTheoryOfEverythingPoster-01He’s been immortalised in The Simpsons and recently commented he’d be ideal casting for a Bond villain as “the wheelchair and the computer voice would fit the part.” And now the inimitable Professor Stephen Hawking is portrayed on celluloid by Eddie Redmayne in biopic The Theory Of Everything.

Beginning with Stephen as a young man at Oxford, it charts how he met fellow student Jane (Felicity Jones) at a dance, leading quickly to romance. So far, so normal for students the world over. But then his college life diverged from the norm. Firstly, he was more than a good deal smarter than average, shamefacedly confessing to ‘only’ solving 9 out of 10 supposedly impossible equations set by his tutors. Secondly, bouts of clumsiness led to a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, with a prognosis of a mere 2 years to live.

From there on, we mostly know his story. He completed his PHD, married Jane, produced 2 children, wrote the seminal A Brief History Of Time among other tomes, receiving accolades from around the globe. And he continues to live.

What we may not know, and what The Theory Of Everything captures so well, is the intense emotion and struggle behind his story. The shock of facing death when so young, of being reliant on others for your basic survival, of losing control of your body to the point when even eating is fraught with the danger of choking. Coupled with the selfless early dedication of his wife Jane, it’s part love story, part sublime lecture in the power of the mind and spirit to not just keep going in the most desperate circumstances, but to excel.  You could question why a biopic of Hawking has been made before his death. Having watched it, it is a testament to life and seems perfectly apt. The Sloth recommends you take tissues. Make it a big box.

UK release 1 January 2015

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