Although good, I found watching this a rather exhausting experience, so relentless is it in its intensity, with no real let-ups. In fact, the first time I looked at my watch I'd thought that by then it must be approaching its conclusion, only to find it was only just past halfway through.
There's no doubt that the film belongs to Eddie Redmayne and I would take nothing at all away from his astonishing performance. When last year he deservedly won awards all round for 'The Theory of Everything' we all knew the path his role as Stephen Hawking was going to take. For this one he's nominated as Best Actor for both BAFTAs and Oscars, and it's a much more widely ranged and subtly nuanced role - as well as being a far lesser known true story too. He'll probably get the BAFTA, but the loud buzz for the other is that it's Leo's turn for going through hell in his part in 'The Revenant', which I'm yet to see.
This story starts in 1926 Copenhagen with married artists Einer Wegener (Redmayne) and Gerte (Alicia Vikander - 'Ex Machina'), he being the more compliant of the pair, she more spiky and liable to fly off the handle. I knew nothing at all of the story except what I'd read beforehand. Although from the outset he is heterosexual, I'd have thought that it would have been his own self-awakening as to his feelings for feminine attire that would be the catalyst, rather than the actuality of her encouraging him, first by getting him to pose as a female model for her painting, and then encouraging him to go the full distance wearing dress and make-up and accompanying her, as a 'game', to a dance as a woman friend in the new identity of Lili Elbe. Of course she has no idea that the stirring up of these latent feelings in him would grow so powerfully and so quickly until he can't control his dressing as female - and he not only has no wish to stop but eventually wants to go the entire way and have his body surgically transformed. Despite his new-found personality, time and again, even in woman's clothes, he declares his love for his wife. One does wonder if her patience can last out, it being as much a trial for her as for him while she supports him in his seeking help for his feelings from a brutally (though not entirely) unsympathetic psychiatric profession - merely a reflection of the times, of course.
Also in the cast is.....guess who? Yes, it's our old-young friend, Ben Whishaw, yet again - who surely must have a clause in a unique contract with the British Film Institute that he is to appear in every single British film. There can be no other possible explanation! Having said that, he's still as good as he always is.
Then there's also the incresaingly familiar face of hottie Matthias Schoenarts ('Far from the Madding Crowd', 'Suite Francaise' - as well as the upcoming 'A Bigger Splash', to which I'm especially looking forward).
Director Tom Hooper ('Les Miserables', 'The King's Speech') brings it all together satisfactorily enough but there's very little light and shade in the proceedings. Although Redmayne's character and that of his screen wife do exhibit a range of emotions I felt the film's storyline itself was almost stiflingly one track, such that it did wear me down pretty quickly..
The film's selling point is, naturally. the central performance of Redmayne as a transexual, which will probably be seen in years to come as a pioneering role. However, in the final analysis, I felt that his appearance transcended the rest of the film itself......................6.5.
4 hours ago