Danish director Mads Matthiesen takes on the world of high fashion in his second feature film, “The Model.” There’s clearly a theme in his work about industries of beauty and the commodification of appearance, as his first film, “Teddy Bear,” told the story of a Danish bodybuilder in Thailand looking for a wife.
Consider “The Model” a starkly realistic, washed-out sister to the acid-trip psychological horror of “The Neon Demon,” which also takes on the modeling business. But while Nicolas Winding Refn’s film was almost devoid of traditional sex, “The Model” digs into the sexual-political economy of Paris fashion through the experience of Emma (Danish model Maria Palm in her acting debut), a naive teen alone in a foreign land, chasing her dreams of fame and fortune.
In an industry run by men, Emma quickly discovers that sex is a path to success, and she fumbles her way into an understanding of how her sexuality can both help and hinder her career. Everyone wants something from her: landlord, roommate, the dreamy British photographer Shane (Ed Skrein) with whom she falls in love. However, any meager power she accrues is ultimately meaningless.
Preyed upon, violated, betrayed and alone, she becomes increasingly erratic, her haunted, hollowed eyes flashing from meek to vengeful in an instant. Matthiesen offers no easy answers, but “The Model” paints a decidedly unglamorous picture, while pulling back the curtain on the exploitative realities of the business.
In English and Danish, with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills