Though based on a real story, the movie displays as a fantasia. Every scene is gorgeous, often filmed with the faint haze of an Impressionist painting or backlit by a golden glow. Copenhagen, with its fishing boats and tiled roofs, is unutteraby lovely, as is marbled and chanderliered Paris. The people in the movie look beautiful and appear in opulent clothes as they float through parties and art openings dressed in velvets, sequins and silk scarves with beautiful prints. Breathtaking art nouveau designs fill the rooms, along with exquisite white tulle ballet gowns and half finished canvases. Downton Abbey looks pedestrian in contrast (of of course has a "downstairs" of servants and at least superficial bit of toil).
If the filming is lush, the film's characters are also drawn unabashedly bigger-than-life, reminding me of Peter Jackson's daring in depicting heroism in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a love story, The Danish Girl reminded me too of lyrical 1940s Hollywood dramas.
|Stills don't entirely capture the cumulative effect of the lush, beautiful filming. Gerda remains bigger-than-life in her loyalty to her transgendered husband.|
|Einar poses for Gerda, perhaps clutching the ballet gown with too much longing.|
|The real Lili beside the filmed version, played by Eddie Redmayne.|
After The Danish Girl, we watched Spotlight, a film aiming to realistically recreate how the Boston Globe broke the story of Roman Catholic Church's systemic 40-year cover-up of priests who sexually abused minors. Although we know how it all turned out, the blow-by-blow depiction of the story's unfolding was riveting. The movie also compellingly illustrated the damage the cover-up did, as priests the church knew to be pedophiles were allowed to continue to victimize the innocent. I would say the movie is only somewhat realistic, however, because as a former reporter I realized that the film, to combat tedium, made the reporters' tasks (drudgery) seem much easier than they would have been.
|The Spotlight team--the investigative reporting unit of the Globe--meet to discuss the unfolding sex abuse story. It could be jarring to see faces familiar from tv, such as John Slattery from Mad Men and Rachel McAdams from True Detective.|
The film pointedly questions the news media, making it clear that the Globe had the story in its hands--that is to say, pluckable--for at least decade and never bothered to put the pieces together. It was all there, hidden in plain sight, but, the film strongly implies, nobody wanted to see it. Given the extent to which corporate profit taking since 2001-02 (the time frame of the movie) has decimated, if not destroyed, many newsrooms, one can only long for the kind of funding and patience that in the end made breaking this story possible--and wonder what rampant corruption might be going on undetected today.
The story hiding in plain sight also reminded me of my Bonhoeffer research, which likewise uncovered a story hiding in plain sight. I imagine this happens more often than we think: I see it in Jane Austen studies too. As Nietzsche pointed out, we often see only what we have already decided is there; we fit our facts to our frame, not our frame to our facts.
Both these movies impressed me for their willingness to develop characters, raise difficult questions and work from an ethical framework.