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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nicole Kidman: MTF?

posted by on November 11 at 17:00 PM


A little while ago, I wrote about David Ebershoff’s amazing debut novel, The Danish Girl:

In early 2001, David Ebershoff released a short, beautiful book called The Danish Girl. The novel, set in the 1920s and ’30s, is about a painter named Einar Wegener who, with the tentative blessing of his wife, Greta, becomes the first man to successfully undergo a sex-change operation. The writing is a revelation from the very first page, as Einar, relaxing with Greta in their Copenhagen apartment, paints a roiling black sea:
The neighbor below was a sailor, a man with a bullet-shaped head who cursed his wife. When Einar painted the gray curl of each wave, he imagined the sailor drowning, a desperate hand raised, his potato-vodka voice still calling his wife a port whore. It was how Einar knew just how dark to mix his paints: gray enough to swallow a man like that, to fold over like batter his sinking growl.

In just that half paragraph, the work that Ebershoff does is tremendous: establishing Einar’s all-consuming interior doubts, his confusion about gender and marriage, and his worldview. It’s ornate and sorrowful, just as one would imagine Einar’s paintings to be. It’s Ebershoff’s portraiture of Einar and Greta’s marriage—a partnership in every sense of the word, and a true friendship, as they both transform in new and unexpected ways—that makes The Danish Girl truly exceptional. Most readers don’t understand until the end of the novel that the story of the Wegeners is based on real life; Einar was the first successful MTF transsexual in the world, and Greta willingly sacrificed her marital status out of love for her husband.

Word comes from The Vulture Blog that Nicole Kidman has agreed to play Einar Wegener, with Charlize Theron as Greta, in the film version of The Danish Girl. On the one hand, it’s probably a good thing for transsexual awareness that Nicole Kidman is playing a MTF in a film, with Charlize Theron as the supportive wife. On the other hand, the appealing thing about The Danish Girl is the writing. Without that, it’s just another biopic about overcoming adversity. I want this movie to succeed, and I hope it retains even a quarter of the literary value of the book.

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