10 January 2016

On Love Amid Dramatic Life Changes

Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl brings to light an often unasked question of love: When one person changes and develops dramatically, what role may her lover take on in remaining romantically engaged?

Indeed, as the film progresses, her husband, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), progressively grows to despise his designated gender, instead opting to dress and act as a woman and presume her new name, Lili Elbe. With the wavering support of her wife, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), Lili visits numerous doctors until she finds the one, Kurt Warnekros (Sebastian Koch), who will surgically remove Lili's male genitalia and construct female ones in their place.

For Gerda, this means revolutionizing her conception of marriage to include a future that may or may not even include a husband, as well as grieving for her newly lost dream of forming a long-lasting family with her husband, her love. Moreover, she must ultimately decide for herself to support Lili in an era of misunderstanding of gender identity and denial of its anomalies, rather than merely dismissing her husband's telling case as symptomatic of idiocy. For Gerda, her love for her husband must remodel itself into an unending trust in Lili's judgment, and a steadfast support for her endeavors, despite the upcoming surgery's nonexistent medical history and the omnipresent social stigma against nontraditional gender and sexual identity.

The Danish Girl is a testimony to love, manifested in a courageous understanding and firm support for one another in the most difficult of times, teaching us to prioritize those around us undergoing dramatic life-changes over ourselves when we must grieve for a shifted future. It preaches an unbounded optimism, transcendent of all of our worries and all of our changes, for a greater future even closer to those we love most.

In life and in death, The Danish Girl well evidences that the raging winds shall rob us of our most dire dilemmas, leaving us only with a grand release.

Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), before transitioning, models a dress for his wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander).
Image Courtesy of Focus Features

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