Goteborg 2016: The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl is the new film from Tom Hooper, who is known for The Kings Speech and Les Miserables. Before we get into our review, I can hear you go ‘but Cinema Scandinavia, The Danish Girl is a British film!’. Yes, we know – however we have several reasons why we want to include this film in our reviews: it uses Copenhagen as a backdrop, Alicia Vikander stars in the film, the story is a Danish one, and the film received funding from the CPH Film Fund. So The Danish Girl definitely has Nordic qualities that make it watchable for us Scandinavian-loving folk.


Onto the review.

Alicia Vikander


  • Domestic Premiere: 1st January 2016
  • International Premieres:
    • Sweden: 30th January 2016 (Goteborg Film Festival)
    • Denmark: 4th February 2016


Based on the true story of Lili Elbe and starring Alicia Vikander. 


Beautifully shot with Alicia Vikander stealing the show, The Danish Girl is an excellent portrayal for a very tragic story. 


The Danish exteriors are used to full effect, and the film is great for anyone looking to see Denmark in something a bit different. 

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The Danish Girl follows the story of Lili Elbe, one of the worlds first transgender surgery recipients. The film starts off with Lili as Einar, who is married to Gerda and living in an apartment where the couple work as artists. One morning Gerda asks her husband to fill in for a dancer who is posing for one of her paintings, and Einar laughingly puts on a pair of tights and squeezes into a pair of ballet slippers. The experience doesn’t exactly awaken something in Einar, but it certainly stirs up a feeling that has always been there. Together Einar and Gerda cook up a plan to attend a society ball with Einar dressed as a woman, all part of a joke.

Gerda assists her husband in finding an outfit, putting on a wig and some makeup, and together they create a woman named Lili. After the ball in which Lili ends up kissing another man, both Lili and Gerda are confused by the experience. It becomes clear that Lili is unable to go away, and the film equally follows each partners coming to terms with the implications. The film concludes after Lili decides to get surgery that will remove her male genitals and give her a vagina, the first of its kind. While the first surgery is a success, Lili dies from an infection caused by the second surgery.

Eddie Redmayne is very timid in his approach to discovering Lili – the actor does a lot of hand twisting and delicate inclinations of his head as Lili tries to mimic women she comes across. However, it is Alicia Vikander who truly stands out in the film. Gerda is not the typical 1920s wife – and at points Gerda is the films lead character. Vikander perfectly portrays Gerda in both an energising sense and later on as Einar’s ever supportive but confused wife.

The film is beautifully set between Copenhagen and Paris. Some scenes were shot on Nyhavn, which seems like it didn’t need much to bring it back to its 1920s appearance. The Scandinavian landscapes open up the films beginning, and are referred to throughout. IT is clear the CPH Film Fund wanted as many beautiful shots of the city as possible, and it truly works in bringing the story to its Danish roots.

Overall, The Danish Girl is incredibly beautiful and well-paced in its portrayal of a very real and tragic story.


Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.