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The story of Danish painter Einar Wegener, one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery.
In early 1920s Copenhagen, the illustrator and artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) asks her husband, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) to stand in for a female model. The popularity of the portraits leads to Gerda painting her husband in further pictures as a woman. Einar develops an attraction for a female physical appearance and begins living as a woman named Lili Elbe. Ultimately Elbe becomes the first ever recipient of male to female sex reassignment surgery, and Gerda supports her decision, although their marriage becomes strained when Gerda comes to the realization that Lili is no longer the person she married. A childhood friend of Einar, Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), shows up and forms a complex love triangle with the couple.