Film review: PLEASURE (2021) the first feature film by Ninja Thyberg

Pleasure (2021) the movie not only serves as an item of great
entertainment, but is also admirable in depicting the male-dominated porn industry, the social and psychological issues involved, and the results of such acts, all from a woman’s point of view. The movie centers around the journey of Bella, a 20 year old from Sweden whose aim is to be the next big porn star: portrayed by Sofia Kappel, in the feature debut of Ninja Thybergin who directed and wrote the original script having spent five years researching and developing it. The documentary-style shooting compliments the theme, full of rawness, humanity and humor, draws the viewer in as if they were participating in the scenes.

Bella Cherry arrives fresh-faced and ready to work. She’s new to the industry but not as naïve as one might expect and she’s determined to realize her dream and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. However, her tenacity and ambition carry her into increasingly dangerous territory and leaves you wondering, what is it all for? What is a woman willing to do for fame? Are there limits? When we asked Thyberg if she shared any traits with Bella she replied, “A lot, she has a lot of me in her. Everything she’s going through I went through, not necessarily in a sexual way but metaphor. And we built the character together Sofia and me. This determination, going extremely far, going across the other side of the world, pushing, striving”. And Bella’s determination and extremism is evident by the acts she commits.

The scenes are sexually explicit, even violent at times but thankfully non-gratuitous though realistic, and not meant for anyone who might consider themselves a prude. At times we cringed waiting for the outcome but this was nicely compensated by the sprinkles of humor throughout the scenes.

The film had a very smooth sequence of events with a clear beginning, middle and end. It was unpredictable at times leaving the audience in full suspense. The cinematography was also on point and demonstrated the directors visual talent. The music accompanying the film included many genres such as rap/hip hop as well as classical music which fit in well to each scene.

The acting was excellent and we were surprised to discover that all of the actors, some using pseudo-names, were authentic porn industry actors apart from Sofia Kappel who plays Bella.

Overall we do feel as though the director achieved her goal of showing a side of porn that most of us are unaware of. But essentially this film could be seen as a metaphor for society at large. On a deeper level one is lead to pontificate and ponder about Patriarchy or matriarchy, which system controls the world we live in? How are women viewed and treated in society? What values are important?

Expect to be surprised, entertained, scared, educated and full of questions about life in general from watching this film.

Is it worth watching? The short answer is yes. Though some of the scenes are raw, the messages are clear and are worth exploring. She states that she made the film with the intention that every viewer make their own conclusion.

Sofia Kappel . She plays Bella Cherry in Ninja Thyberg’s film Pleasure.

The only critique is that it was a tad too long but despite this it was still enjoyable and I can add that the ending was interesting.

Streaming starts 2022 June 17 on MUBI
https://mubi.com/films/pleasure-2020

PLEASURE
Directed by Ninja Thyberg

Drama
VO English and Swedish
Cast
Sofia Kappel, Mark Spiegler, Eva Melander, Kasia Szarek
~ 1 hr 48

Prize and nominations
CANNES 2020 Festival de Cannes
SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021
BEST DIRECTOR AWARD – INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS 2022 – 2 NOMINATIONS
BUENOS AIRES INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF INDEPENDENT CINEMA 2022

Synopsis. Ninja Thyberg’s debut feature Pleasure is a journey into the American porn industry and follows 20-year-old Bella from Sweden, who arrives in Los Angeles with the dream of becoming the next big porn star. The film is raw but offers both a human and humorous portrayal of a male-dominated world seen from a female perspective.

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