16 May 2023

Copenhagen, Denmark

The film THE DANISH GIRL tells the story of Danish painter Lili Ilse Elvenes (1882-1931), better known as Lili Elbe, based on David Ebershoff's 2000 fictionalized biography. Born Einar Wegener, she was among the early recipients of gender-affirming surgery.

The Danish Girl, 0:09:54
Filming started on 10 February and ended on 12 April 2015. Filming took 44 days in six countries, besides Denmark also in Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway and France. The film begins in 1926: Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is a successful landscape painter and married to Gerda (Alicia Vikander), a portrait painter. They live in Copenhagen; in reality, the couple had already moved from the Danish capital to Paris in 1912.

After presenting his work at an exhibition Einar and Gerda walk back home via Snaregade. It is one of Copenhagen's oldest streets with buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Danish Girl, 0:02:21
Snaregade, Copenhagen, 30 June 2022

Translation: H.C. Andersen lived here
when his first collection of fairy tales
was published in May 1835
Einar and Gerda live on Nyhavn 12, the canal with its coloured houses from the 17th century, also seen in Torn Curtain and La Casa de Papel. In March 2015 Nyhavn, daily crowded by tourists, was brought back to what it must have looked like in the 1920s.
Copenhagen's most famous street was once home to Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark's most famous resident. From 1834 to 1838, he rented two rooms on the first floor at number 20; a plaque above the entrance commemorates he lived in the building.

From 1848 to 1865 Andersen lived intermittently at number 67 and from 1871 until a month before his death in 1875 at number 18. Nyhavn is featured several times in the film.

The Danish Girl, 0:02:45
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 0:07:09
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 0:24:58
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 1:33:25
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

Nyhavn is close to Kongens Nytorv, a square commissioned by King Christian V in 1670. It is briefly seen in the film as Einar walks from the square through August Bournonvilles Passage to Stærekassen. This tower is an extension from 1931 (so it did not yet exist in the 1920s) of Det Kongelige Teater (The Royal Theatre), which was built in 1874. In 2021, The Danish Girl was performed here as a ballet with Bjørk-Mint Paulse, herself a trans woman, in the title role.
The metro entrance was constructed a few years after filming.

The Danish Girl, 0:03:49
Det Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

Later in the film, the entrance to Stærekassen can be seen when Einar enters. The gold-coloured ceiling is a mosaic made by Ejnar Nielsen. It depicts characters from Danish art and culture, including Hans Christian Andersen right above the entrance. The text in the book 'liv et eventyret' means 'life and fairy tales'. I found out afterwards that I should have been on the other side of the passage for a matching photo. 

The Danish Girl, 0:37:18
Stærekassen, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

Gerda also hopes to exhibit her paintings and goes to a gallery owner to show her work. She passes the stock exchange building, Børsen in Danish, designed by Flemish architect Hans van Steenwinckel in the early seventeenth century. Unfortunately, the unique dragon spire (see Copenhagen, Denmark) is not seen. Until 1974 it housed the stock exchange; today the building serves as the headquarters of the Danish Chamber of Commerce.
The front facade is almost identical to the back facade. While standing on Børsgade it took us some time to realize that the film only shows the building as seen from the Slotsholmsgade.

The Danish Girl, 0:08:01
Stock exchange, Copenhagen, 30 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 0:08:06
Stock exchange, Copenhagen, 30 June 2022

After posing in a dress, Gerda encourages Einar to wear women's clothes more often. At a party for artists, Lili, as Einar now calls herself, befriends Henrik Sandahl (Ben Whishaw). Lili later visits him. He lives at Suensonsgade 8 in the Nyboder district. The historic row houses were originally built in the 17th and 18th centuries for navy personnel. During our visit, several streets were being renovated which was much needed given the state of some of the houses.

The Danish Girl, 0:42:07
Suensonsgade, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 0:42:10
Suensonsgade 8, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 0:43:59
Suensonsgade, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022
The Danish Girl, 0:44:05
Nyboder, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

Gerda has received an offer to exhibit her paintings of Lili in Paris. Einar joins her but dressed as a man. Although a second unit filmed in Paris, the street where they stay is in Copenhagen. Frederiksgade connects the royal palace Amalienborg with the Frederiks Kirke, also known as Marmorkirke (Marble Church), seen in the background. This choice is not very surprising as the church was designed by a French architect, Nicolas Henri Jardin.

The Danish Girl, 0:55:56
Frederiksgade, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

A few years later, Lili, who has since undergone surgery, sees Henrik sitting on a terrace in Copenhagen. Again Nyhavn, near Cap Horn restaurant at number 21.

The Danish Girl, 1:36:33
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 29 June 2022

Screenshots © Universal Studios