The Model is definitely one of our favourites from the Göteborg Film Festival – a mostly English-language film about an aspiring model. While at first the premise of The Model sounds familiar, it’s the models ambitious and immature nature that finds her becoming complicit in her fate. It’s an effective and dramatic film that provides new perspectives on the fashion industry.
The film follows the story of aspiring model Emma (Maria Palm), who dreams of working a catwalk show for Chanel. This is her ultimate aim as she leaves her family in suburban Denmark and dives head first into the world of Paris fashion. Here she meets hotshot photographer Shane White (Ed Skrein) on her first booking, which turns out to be a disaster. She hooks up with Shane at a nightclub and a relationship develops and Emma is smitten. Not uncoincidentally, her career is on the ascent as well. While this story seems familiar, The Model takes surprising twists due to Emma’s immaturity and relentless ambition, and almost as much as the predatory nature of the industry, it is shown to be complicit in her fate.
This is the second film from Mads Matthiesen, who won a prize at Sundance for his 2012 film Teddy Bear. The Model sets out to confirm the worst assumptions about the fashion industry while offering new additional insights. Like the world in which it is set, however, the films stylish froideur will exert a fascination. And the issue that it explores – the exploitation of young woman in an industry that expects children to make adult decisions – remains depressingly current.
Real-life model Maria Palm is effective in a role that benefits from her lack of acting experience. Emma is ambitious, believing that she has as much right as any other girl to pursue a career as a model. But she’s also passive, and hasn’t developed the hard carapace which is necessary to survive the knocks and criticism. She doesn’t know how to take a compliment; she covers her mouth when she smiles. Her extraordinary looks give the impression of emotional sophistication and maturity which is not yet there. In many ways, not least her age, Emma is still a child.
Overall, The Model is an effective and current film about the true dangers of the fashion industry, told in an effective and different way.