REVIEW / FILM OPINION – “Pleasure” offers a look of rare intelligence on porn by pointing out above all the desire for fame of a young Swedish girl who arrives in the industry of the X.
Dive into the porn industry
Pleasure opens with a porn scene. No image, but sounds that accompany a sober opening credits on a black background. Noises of mouth, spitting, choking, insults and a few moans. We are there in hardcore porn. And going only through the sound, the feeling is particularly disturbing. We understand then that the director Ninja Thyberg does not intend to make us comfortable, and will not spare us anything. The proof, after this introduction, when Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel), a young Swedish girl who has just arrived in Los Angeles to become a porn star, is getting ready for her first scene.
She is alone, in the middle of three men who explain to her how the sequence will unfold. Despite a slight moment of panic, and after being reassured by one of them who affirms that she can always reverse her decision, she finally launches herself into the bath. Ninja Thyberg films the scene raw, sometimes adopting the point of view of the young girl. No romanticism in there, no apparent desire. Once the scene concludes with the usual facial, Bella asks for her phone so that she can take a picture of herself with her face covered in cum, reinforcing our discomfort a little more.
Thereby, Pleasure do not do not the apology for porn. But do not seek not to denigrate this industry either since she doesn’t make Bella a victim of the middle. It is a profession, with rules (we insist on the documents to be signed before shooting and the importance of consent), with benevolent people, and others toxic. From scene to scene, Bella will find out the different facets of the environment. But always by making your own choices, by being active. Because his desire is” reach the top of the profession as quickly as possible.
Not so much for the money, nor the pleasure, but for a form of recognition. In this, the film does not criticize the porn industry so much as access to some form of celebrity. Whether in this environment, in traditional cinema or elsewhere, we find the same problems with the toxicity of certain men, harassment and, ultimately, dehumanized personalities once at the top. You only have to see the boredom that hovers inside the VIP area during an organized evening.
We could make Bella look like a boxer. There isn’t much fun in taking hits, it’s the outcome that counts. Bella, she wants to get to the top. And too bad if he has to suffer and to hurt your body. Over the course of the feature film, we see it transforming. But still insisting on its fragility (which makes her human), the director does not lose empathy for her. Sofia Kappel’s performance has a lot to do with it.
The young actress manages to make her character evolve perfectly until a (almost) final which sees her switch. Bella, who is at its worst after an extremely violent submission scene (for both herself and the viewer), will become in turn brutal and domineering with a rival who will have fascinated her for a long time. Ninja Thyberg also points with the latter, embodied by the actress X Evelyn Claire, the gap between fantasy and reality, between the idea we can have of our idols and what they are. Pleasure is a strong proposition at all levels, without miserability, and much deeper than the simplistic and reductive image sometimes made of this environment.
Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure, released on 20 October 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.