Film company to rebuild Danish Girl’s Dresden grave

The Dresden grave of trailblazing trans woman Lili Elbe is to get a new tombstone – funded by the company behind a hit film about her life.

Film company to rebuild Danish Girl's Dresden grave
Eddie Redmayne portrayed Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. Photo: Universal Pictures/dpa

“It was important to us that Lili Elbe showed so much courage in her time,” cemetery manager Beatrice Teichmann told The Local when asked why the grave was to be rebuilt.

The Danish Girl, released in German cinemas in January, tells the story of Elbe, who was one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Elbe was born Einar Wegener in 1882 in Denmark, and became a famous painter.

But although he enjoyed career success and was happily married, Wegener was never comfortable living as a man.

The couple moved to Paris where Elbe could live as a woman and her wife, Gerda Gottlieb, as a lesbian.

But in 1930 Elbe travelled to Germany for sex reassignment surgery – a highly experimental procedure at the time.

She underwent a series of four operations over the course of the following months in Berlin and later Dresden, but a final procedure to transplant a womb – decades before the invention of drugs to prevent the body rejecting transplants – proved fatal.

Elbe died in 1931 and was buried in the Trinity Cemetery belonging to the Evangelical Church in Dresden.

For unknown reasons, the gravestone was removed sometime in the 1950s or 1960s – but no-one else has been buried in the plot since.

Now Focus Features – the company behind The Danish Girl movie – has offered to cover the €4,100 costs to reconstruct Elbe's grave. 

The grave is to be officially inaugurated on Friday at a ceremony attended by the Danish ambassador to Germany, film producer Gail Mutrux and David Ebershoff, author of the novel that became the Danish Girl movie.

“The idea was to have a place to remember her again,” cemetery manager Teichmann said.

Teichmann asks that anyone wishing to contribute to commemorating Elbe make a small donation rather than sending flowers. Bank details can be found on the Evangelical Community website.

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‘Another Round’: a spirited Oscar-winning ode to life

Danish film ‘Another Round’ (‘Druk’ in the original Danish), which won an Oscar on Sunday for best international feature film, is a dark existential comedy about the joys and dangers of being drunk, and letting go to embrace life.

'Another Round': a spirited Oscar-winning ode to life
Thomas Vinterberg accepts the Oscar for International Feature Film on behalf of Denmark.Photo: A.m.p.a.s/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

It is the fourth Danish film to win an Oscar for best non-English language film, after ‘In A Better World’ in 2011, ‘Pelle the Conqueror’ in 1989 and ‘Babette’s Feast’ in 1988.

Filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, who is also nominated for best director, gave a moving, tearful speech, paying tribute to his daughter Ida, who was killed in a car accident four days after shooting began in May 2019.

“We ended up making this movie for her, as her monument,” Vinterberg said at the gala in Los Angeles.

“So, Ida, this is a miracle that just happened, and you’re a part of this miracle. Maybe you’ve been pulling some strings somewhere, I don’t know. But this one is for you.”

The movie is set around four old friends, all teachers at a high school near Copenhagen. Martin, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a history teacher going through a midlife crisis, depressed about his monotone life.

To spice things up, the quartet decides to test an obscure theory that humans are born with a small deficit of alcohol in their blood, resolving to keep their blood alcohol level at a constant 0.05 percent from morning till night.

At first, they experience the liberating joys of inebriation, before things quickly go from bad to worse. 

But the film refrains from passing moral judgement or glorifying alcohol.

“‘Another Round’ is imagined as a tribute to life. As a reclaiming of the irrational wisdom that casts off all anxious common sense and looks down into the very delight of lust for life … although often with deadly consequences,” Vinterberg said when the movie came out last year.

Vinterberg was devastated by the loss of his daughter, and production on the movie was briefly halted, but he soon resumed shooting.

He said he was spurred on by a letter she had written about her enthusiasm for the project, in which she was to have had a role.

But the film took on a new dimension.

“The film wasn’t going to be just about drinking anymore. It had to be about being brought back to life,” Vinterberg said in the only in-depth interview he has given about her death, in June 2020 to Danish daily Politiken.

Selected for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival which ended up being cancelled due to the pandemic, ‘Another Round has already won several awards, including a BAFTA for best film not in the English language, and a Cesar in France for best foreign film.

The film is carried by Mikkelsen, who previously teamed up with Vinterberg in the 2012 psychological thriller ‘The Hunt’ (‘Jagten’).

In one of the most talked-about scenes in ‘Another Round’, Mikkelsen even shows off his dance talent — the former Bond villain was a professional contemporary dancer before becoming an actor.

READ ALSO: How Danish Oscar-nominated dark booze comedy was inspired by director’s tragic loss