The movie opens with a scenery of beautiful landscapes and wonderful music played by the London Symphony Orchestra. The oboe, cello, and in particular, the piano feature prominently here, and throughout the movie.
The story is about a reasonably successful early 20th century landscape artist, Einar Wegener who was married to protrait artist Gerda Crottlieb. It tells of how Einer’s posing as a female model for his wife revealed his lifelong identification with the opposite gender. The relationship between Einar and Gerda is the focus of the story, and depicts the dynamic shift as Einar transitions into Lili. Lili is a role powerfully played by the remarkable Eddie Redmayne, last year’s Oscar winner for Best Actor. Will he win another Oscar this year? This would make him only the second actor after Tom Hanks to win this award in two consecutive years in the last two decades.
The Swedish actress, Alicia Vikander, also deserves recognition for her very strong portrayal of Gerda. She is beyond luminous and illuminating for her role.
Einer/Lili’s transition required highly invasive surgery, carried out by doctors who had little idea of what they were doing. He believed that ‘I am a woman inside’ and that ‘God made me a woman’ and the doctors ‘cured me of the sickness of my disguise’. The doctor had only seen one such case before and could do two operations but warned that this was an irreversible change and that there was a high risk of failure, infections and complications.
Throughout the whole experience, Gerda was extremely supportive. The doctor told her: ‘I believe I can help your husband but he won’t be your husband when I’ve finished’. After the operation, Lili told Gerda. ‘I am entirely myself’; he also wondered, ‘How have I ever deserved such love?’ He also told Gerda: ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. Las night I had a most beautiful dream. I was a baby in my mother’s arms. She looked down at me and she called me Lili.’
Leaving the hospital, Gerda passed the places Einer had earlier painted. The landscaped are really beautiful. Later, Gerda wrote a memoir about the entire experience and continued to paint portraits of Lili.