Redmayne in top form in transgender 'The Danish Girl'

Sat Sep 5, 2015 2:55pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - So the question that will arise -- if only jokingly -- with the premiere of the transgender movie "The Danish Girl" on Saturday at the Venice Film Festival is should Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne win another for best actor or best actress?

The British actor, who won his first Oscar this year for his portrayal of the British physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything", turns in another astounding performance as the gender-conflicted Danish landscape painter Einar Wegener.

The film comes at a time when movies and television series about transsexuals are all the rage. This one is not sensationalist, but when you consider what Redmayne has achieved by the end of almost two hours of running time, you realize he has made something extraordinary seem inevitable and acceptable.

Born male in 1882, Wegener was one of the first people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, in 1930 in Dresden.

Although married to the portraitist Gerda Gottlieb, Wegener since childhood had experienced feelings that she was a woman trapped inside a man's body.

An artists' ball in Copenhagen, where Gerda suggests that her shy and delicate husband dress up as a woman, brings out the latent female tendencies. She also gets Wegener to pose as a woman for art-deco style portraits that help make her reputation.

Even while married, Wegener begins living as a woman, and takes the name Lili Elbe. After grappling with the emotional and societal issues of coming out as female, she goes on to attempt the transition, including removal of male organs and construction of a vagina.

The makers of the film directed by Tom Hooper, who also made "The King's Speech", might not like audiences to know beforehand how this highly experimental procedure, done in stages, worked out. What happens, though, is a matter of record, and hardly comes as a shock.   Continued...

Actor Eddie Redmayne and his wife Hannah Bagshawe attend the red carpet event for the movie "The Danish Girl" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, northern Italy September 5, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini