Film Review: The Danish Girl

Film Review: The Danish Girl

As same sex marriage, transgender relationships, and LGBT representation become more predominant in our culture, it’s no surprise Hollywood is adding its two cents.

Leading in to Oscar season Carol and The Danish Girl are currently in cinemas, one telling the story of a forbidden female love affair, and the other an artist considering gender reassignment.

Seeing the later, I explored its contribution to the conversation, and how Christian’s might respond to society’s romanticizing of homosexuality.

Following the life of painter’s Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), The Danish Girl (loosely) documents Einar’s progression into ‘Lili Elbe – his female counterpart. Gradually relinquishing his male identity, Einar becomes one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery, gaining iconic status within the transgender community. His courage and conviction is regarded highly by the filmmakers, who humanize a challenge often relegated to salacious divisive headlines.

The Danish Girl’s artistry and confrontational undertones are surely an Oscar ploy, but its approach allows us rare insight:

Thus far Christian’s have been loudly represented in moral and ethical discussions surrounding any gay rights/marriage equality/homosexual debate. Stories of picket waving ‘sinner-decreeing’ ‘Jesus people’ circulate globally; inviting the world to believe we’re ‘socially detached’ and alienated from useful contribution. We are known in opposition to the seemingly downtrodden, not in light of Christ’s compassion.

I firmly believe marriage is between a man and woman, and that God’s ideal design for family life is built on healthy heterosexual relationships. I believe there’s danger in iconizing stories such as Einar’s, and will always personally strive to see society reflect God’s intention. But I also believe Christians are often misplaced in the conversation.

Watching The Danish Girl I saw a man in the midst of an identity crisis. His external reality didn’t reflect his internal self-perception, playing the protagonist in his own story. He struggled with guiltiness from nonconformity, and shame from being misunderstood. Einar found “security in the shadows”, and consoled himself in darkness. The tragedy is, that’s never where Einar’s true solace lay:

In John 11:10 Jesus says the man who walks by night stumbles, for he has no light – he doesn’t know what makes him fall. If we want to know the cause of our challenge and find solution, we must step into the light.

Beyond a stubbed toe, Jesus is talking about the anxieties of our soul. To remedy the affects of deep-seeded lies and avoided truths, we have to turn to Him.

Regardless of sexual orientation we can all identify with that.

Seeing Einar’s tragedy caused me to wonder where are we as Christians when he’s being abused? Facing crisis? Where are we when he confronts his family with the news, and hopes for their support? Who is reminding Einar of the love of Christ and the secure identity found in Him?

Despite our beliefs about Einar’s life choice, morality is not necessarily top of mind for him; he’s seeking unconditional love without condemnation.

Scott Sauls says it well in ‘Should Christians Boycott?’,

“…whenever Jesus encountered people whose sexual ethics contradicted Scripture… He never scolded them. Rather, He treated them with compassion and emphazied that, with Him, grace was their starting point: “I do not condemn you” Jesus said to the adulteress, “now leave your life of sin.”

In those two sentences Christianity was mapped: a revelation of God’s grace that leads to repentance from sin. Jesus isn’t suggesting we condone or encourage life choices outside of God’s ideal; He’s inviting us to approach them through the lens of grace. I may believe Einar’s life choices cause distance between he and God, but I also have to accept he may not care. And in that case, how will Jesus be known to Einar through me? Will I abandon him in his crisis, or reinforce his identity in Jesus affirming his value and call?

If society is going to continue down this path, our role isn’t to abandon our beliefs or contradict our convictions. It’s to challenge ourselves in how we relate to people who may not share those views. To honour God in our relationships with them, and respect the reality of difficulties they face.

We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This isn’t the ‘sin free’ extending compassion to the sinner. It’s one person who’s stumbled in darkness passing the torch to another.


High point: Witnessing the stoicism of Gerba Wegener depicted throughout Einar’s journey (although the factual nature of this account has been questioned).

Low point: Seeing Einar reach a point of hopelessness.

Best digested with: Danish pastries of course…

Photo: Laura Bennett

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