Thoughts on Lili Elbe

A few days ago Buzzfeed ran an interview with Eddie Redmayne which suggests he has tried really hard to be respectful in his role as Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. It’s not like he doesn’t know trans women, after all. He had a major role in Jupiter Ascending, so will have spent a lot of time with Lana Wachowski. The interview was conducted by a trans woman as well, so full marks to Buzzfeed for giving us access there.

However, no matter how good an actor is — and Eddie is very good — he can only work with the material he has been given. This article, written by someone who has seen the script, suggests that the film is going all out for the gone-too-far-fetishist angle. That’s going to make it very uncomfortable viewing.

Of course the film is based on a fictionalized version of Lili’s life, not a biography, so goodness only knows how the narrative has been twisted to fit the requirements of the cis gaze.

I don’t know what first hand accounts are available, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to read the originals. It is possible that we’ll never really know what Lili and her wife, Gerda, were like, or what they thought of each other. What we do have, however, are Gerda’s portraits of Lili. You can see some of them, and some of Gerda’s lesbian erotica, here. Bear that in mind if you find the film portraying Gerda as a betrayed heterosexual wife.