‘I wanted to challenge people’s prejudices’: is Pleasure the most revealing film about porn ever?
In an explicit and uncompromising new drama, a Swedish woman tries to work her way to the top of LA’s patriarchal porn industry
Swedish film-maker Ninja Thyberg certainly did not take the easy route with her first feature. Pleasure, which arrives in US theaters this weekend, takes on a subject rife for denigration or moralism: ambitious 19-year-old Bella Cherry, played by Swedish newcomer Sofia Kappel, trying to break into the American porn industry in the late 2010s. Based on years of research in the Hollywood-adjacent world of Los Angeles adult film, Thyberg’s debut portrays female friendship, pragmatic striving and power dynamics in an industry as liable for abuse – and professionalism – as any other. Pleasure often lingers on the quotidian aspects of the business – contracts, pre-shoot douches, set lighting, gossip with co-workers. The unrated film, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance festival, opens on Bella’s bare crotch, as she contorts herself in the shower to shave her vulva before her first shoot.
Another act of ambition: this is Kappel’s first-ever acting role. The 24-year-old first met Thyberg through a mutual friend, who recommended her based on an early character description for Bella. “My initial thought was: absolutely not,” Kappel told the Guardian. But she was looking for challenging, uncomfortable experiences – there is, unsurprisingly, a lot of nudity in Pleasure, though lack of clothing is so perfunctory as to become unremarkable – and was sold on Thyberg’s vision of a film about porn as a professional business and microcosm of society. “I think the porn industry as a subject is very interesting since it’s very present in our lives but we don’t talk about it. We act like it doesn’t exist,” she said.
Originally published by The Guardian.
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