Sundance 2021: “Pleasure”

© Martin Skredsvik

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Mope” was the last film about the adult film industry I was fortunate enough to see at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago. It was shocking to process it, even though it was brilliant and brave. When it was the turn of “Pleasure”, I had no idea of what I was getting into until the first seconds of the film. I knew nothing about it nor what to expect. Thankfully, I had two hours of downtime which I thought I can spend watching it. The time I spent on it won’t be easy to forget and I doubt neither will you.

“Pleasure” follows a twenty-year-old Swedish woman who travels to L.A. to pursue a career in the adult film industry. Money does not concern her; she wants people watching her. She considers herself a performer because she likes to be in front of the camera. But as soon as she gets into the industry, she realizes it’s not just about pleasure; it’s a real business. And if she wants to succeed, she must do either equal to what the Spiegler Girls do (the A-List version of Porn Actresses) or more.

The film opens with Linnea aka “Bella Cherry”, who, at the airport when asked if she was there for pleasure or business, her response was – pleasure. Thinking that she has something new to offer to the industry, she begins looking for an agent whose demand is much higher than what Bella offers. She was told precisely – what you offer is not enough. We need someone who can do rough and BDSM scenes, being slapped and choked; beaten up and be ready for submission. She agrees because she thought It was cool. But when she began filming the rough scene and was being repeatedly raped by two men, she asked to stop the shooting, not realizing she won’t get paid for just a half scene. And if she wants to get full money, she must finish it.

Before you start watching it, you need to be ready for very unsettling, uncomfortable and absolutely painful scenes. The film offers the woman’s perspective of the adult industry, how they are treated, and what needs to be done to get some level of recognition. The scene that I have mentioned earlier is one of the most shocking I’ve seen in my entire life. What actress Sofia Kappel does and the rest of the cast from the adult film industry, heavily involved in the film without a single hesitation, is absolutely mind-blowing. There is no such money in the world that would force a Hollywood A-list actress to perform what Kappel did. And for that, she earns my utmost respect.

The film contains graphic scenes, full-frontal nudity, and offensive language. But all that works like pure perfection to capture what the industry does, the words they use to humiliate women, and how, through their need of money, they make them play roles in films which, in real life, those men would have been put in jail for. She says, crying, “It wasn’t a rough scene. I’ve been repeatedly raped.”  And was ready to quit the industry until one tipping moment, when she needed to decide for herself, either she is out for good or stays and plays by the rule.

From writer/director Ninja Thyberg (co-written by Peter Modestij), “Pleasure” won’t give you much pleasure watching the film just because of its premise, but it will make you happy to realize that we have directors that are willing to tackle such a difficult real-life topic in this film. Even though the story is fictional, it does not take much to understand, most likely, things like this do occur in the adult industry. As for the film, it’s effective, bold, heroic, and something you should not miss out. Even though it may be overlooked by the big studios, I hope it’s just the beginning of Sofia Kappel’s journey because, after her performance, she deserves having all of Hollywood’s best agents lined up to sign her.

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