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Gender reassignment story as a dance film: "Girls"

Some things just can't be changed. You can't just cut off a piece of your feet, "said the ballet teacher, bone-dry to Lara, when her bloody feet were once again bothering her during training. The sentence, which has a double meaning, is from the Belgian director Lukas Dhont of course very deliberately placed Girl of a girl whose pain consists in not being enough of a girl or woman. By the time the film begins, Lara has already come a long way. For the father (Arieh Worthalter) she has long been the daughter, for the little brother the sister. She has just started hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery is in the foreseeable future. "Everything you will be then, you are already now," the therapist assures her. But this intermediate state demands a lot from Lara.

Criticism of occupation with man

Dhont clears his tall, blonde and extremely elegant protagonist, who Victor Polster impressively embodies with an impenetrable inner tension (the cast with a male actor caused some criticism), all obstacles out of the way. Lara doesn't have to fight for social acceptance in her liberal environment. She is sensitively cared for by doctors and therapists. The father has just moved with the family to a larger city to enable his daughter to dream of a dance career. It is like a sensor that senses every mood swings and searches for a "common solution" for every problem. But even in this warm, soft environment, the flowing camera movements and warm colors (lots of gold and honey yellow) condense into a cotton wool carpet, Lara is always the "other".

There is something captivating about the transformative process of Lara in a dance film. The body has always been coded twice: a setting that demands work and brings suffering with it. On the one hand there is the hard ballet training in the dance academy, to which Dhont gives ample space, on the other hand there is the burden that the male body means for Lara. A body that she takes a lot of effort and pain to hide - for example if she taps herself against the doctor's instructions.

In the sights of the camera

Lara's body is also a scene in the literal sense. Dhont has an almost obsessive relationship with his main character. In almost every shot she is targeted by Frank van den Eeden's camera, she accompanies her everywhere, she dances with her, she follows her to the toilet, where she, completely exhausted from the physical exertion, tears out the burning tape from between her legs.

Girl, Awarded prizes in Cannes, it is a radical portrait, as everything is subordinate to the figure. However, this extreme exposure harbors ambivalences. In the picture, Lara is constantly isolated from her surroundings, which makes her otherness even more manifest. And even if looking at the transgender body is always redirected to the dancing body, Dhont's film is undoubtedly an invitation to the curiosity.

However, this "outside" concept is convincing in other respects. Because the body is at the same time the protective cover of an inner drama that neither the people involved nor the audience are able to penetrate. The clasps of glances cannot prevent Lara from slowly slipping away. (Esther Buss, 2.1.2019)