Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Alicia Vikander

QuickView: The Green Knight (2021)

“I fear I am not meant for greatness.”


Based on a 14th Century poem, David Lowery’s Arthurian fantasy horror The Green Knight is heavy on atmosphere and light on engagement, yet it has the power to linger. From the outset it is clear that this is not mainstream fantasy, its desaturated palette (shot on location in Ireland) and relentlessly oppressive tone making for a gruelling experience. It is not without beauty — in its use of light and shadow, and through its evocative (if disquieting) choral score. Whilst Lowery’s script is at times loose with the source material, it draws from the same central chivalric themes, particularly Gawain’s conflicting desires for greatness and honour — as King Arthur’s nephew, he feels entitled to the former but, by seeking it, he risks losing the latter. Dev Patel’s performance exhibits particular desperation in Gawain’s fear for his own survival, moreso than the temptations he faces during his journey. A dreamlike structure drifts from one encounter to another upon his quest, each a narratively disconnected vignette complete with chapter headings. Lowery’s focus is fixed entirely upon Gawain’s internal struggle, which unfortunately leaves Alicia Vikander underused despite playing a dual role. At first The Green Knight‘s positive critical reception struck me as attributable more to its unusual approach than whether it was successful in its aims, yet I must admit that my immediate discontent with the film mellowed into a residual curiosity as various aspects have continued to play on my mind.


QuickView: Tomb Raider (2018)

“I’m not that kind of Croft.”

Lara Croft

When Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander was cast as the iconic Lara Craft, many hoped that Tomb Raider might finally crack the elusive high-quality videogame-to-film adaptation. Sadly, those hoping for more than a generic action movie will be disappointed by the results. Although it broadly follows the story beats of the 2013 videogame reboot, the script presents this as an uninspired origin story in which our orphaned heroine bizarrely spends the first half hour moping around London as a bike courier, presumably in an effort to make the heiress more relatable. Meanwhile it omits many of the scenes that demonstrate Lara’s transformation into a survivor. Vikander does what she can with the material, but apparently “this kind of Croft” is bland and largely passive until she returns to London in the film’s final few minutes. It is telling that even Walton Goggins struggles to make his villain in any way memorable. Ultimately the film is strongest in its fan-service moments, which is rarely a mark of quality.


The Danish Girl (2015)

The Danish Girl
director: Tom Hooper
writer: David Ebershoff (novel), Lucinda Coxon (screenplay)
starring: Alicia Vikander, Eddie Redmayne, Matthias Schoenaerts
running time: 119 mins
certificate: 15

I think Lili’s thoughts, I dream her dreams.
She was always there.

The Danish Girl is emotionally affecting, but avoids deeper exploration of the transgender experience.

Based on David Ebershoff’s novel, this is a heavily fictionalised account of the life of Lili Elbe. Einar Wegener [Eddie Redmayne] and Gerda Wegener [Alicia Vikander] are happily married artists in Denmark. When a model fails to show, Gerda has Einar don a pair of stockings to assist her, leading Einar to discover that he likes it. Adopting the character “Lili”, the couple enjoy Einar’s cross-dressing until he becomes unable to set aside his female persona at will. Life in Denmark becomes difficult just as Gerda’s portraits of Lily are gaining her recognition, leading the couple to move to Paris. A succession of doctors are unable to provide help until one believes that Lili is a woman trapped inside a man’s body, offering to perform pioneering experimental surgery to correct the problem.

Gerda paints LiliThe central performances are superb. Redmayne makes Lili’s emergence seem natural, nervous and fumbling at first, but increasingly confident over time. Vikander portrays Gerda sympathetically as a supportive but conflicted wife struggling to come to terms with the fact that, in order to help him, she must let her husband go. Gerda’s varying reactions over time are playful, irritated, concerned and angry before finally reaching a reluctant sad acceptance. The tragedy of her position is arguably felt more keenly than Lili’s, perhaps because her character is more rounded, or perhaps simply because much of the audience will find Gerda a more relatable figure.

Einar’s conflict is presented from the outside in a rather sanitised way. Although the film features some sexual content, the scenes chosen are those least shocking to the audience. We feel for Einhar when a series of doctors brand him either a deviant or insane, but we are never really presented with a better understanding beyond poetic lines of dialogue about Lili having always been a part of him, nor is there a strong sense of Lili’s rejection of her body.

Gerda and LiliWhilst it does not claim to be a historic account, the film’s efficacy depends on what one considers to be the chief intention. As a dramatic and emotionally powerful portrayal of Gerda and Einar’s struggle, it resonates well. However, as an exploration of the feelings that lead Einar to transition into Lili, and Lili’s desire for physical alterations to reflect her identity, the film falls short. Nevertheless, it does raise fascinating questions of identity that linger beyond the closing credits.

rating: 3/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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