Pleasure – New Swedish feature film about the porn industry

A new Swedish feature film about the porn industry has received massive international attention and was shown at Gothenburg Film Festival last week. The director, Ninja Thyberg, has studied the porn industry closely in California for six years, and the result is a very realistic and detailed depiction. Realstars hope that the film can contribute to the debate about the porn industries negative affect, where connections to sex purchases exist. We therefore have to talk about Fair Sex, sex on equal conditions and with mutual respect. The opposite to Fair Sex is abuse. 

Robert Schenk, who during many years have reviewed for Realstars and who have seen the film, writes: 

In Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg manages to create a film about the porn industry that is neither sentimental nor sensational. The storyline – a 19-year-old girl leaves “boring” Sweden with the dream to become the next big pornstar in Los Angeles – is such a stereotype that my red flags are raised before the first scene from Gothenburg’s Film Festival digital showing reaches me in my living room. But the film is very well-made, and so believable that it resembles a documentary. The red flags quickly disappear. 

The authenticity is made possible through a magnificent acting performance by Sofia Kappel as Bella Cherry (Swedish Linnea), and through all remaining roles being played by people who actually work within the porn industry in California. Some of them are playing themselves, and others are playing different roles, but it is evident that everyone knows what they are doing. It took Thyberg six years to make the film, and it is shown in the quality. 

One of the movie’s main strengths is the non-judgmental perspective. It shows in a straightforward way what the porn industry looks like, how the women (girls) are treated, how sex and sex-scenes are filmed and stone-cold sold as any kind of product, and how violent and sadistic it can be. Personally, when experiencing the film, I see young girls that just like girls in prostitution need alcohol and drugs and a feeling of “sisterhood” to survive the assaults and the trauma. I also imagine how it will be just as difficult for them to get out of the industry and deal with their PTSD as it is for people in prostitution. The sex industry and porn industry are connected, and the girls in the film is evidence of that. 

But, with what feelings and opinions will other people watch the film? It is difficult to know. Interesting, and somewhat shocking to note, is that Sofia Kappel who plays Bella Cherry in “P:1s Kulturnytt”, January 18th, 2021, that Bella is a “determined person, very ambitious and driven, knows what she wants, stands out in a crowd, dares to take up space, dares to own her sexuality and have power over her body, and is not ashamed of it”. I would never describe Bella like that, but perhaps that is the lack of a broader perspective from the young actress that allows her to play the character so completely. 

The creator of the film, Ninja Thyberg, shows a deep perspective when making a statement in Aftonbladet the 5th of February 2021. I assume that this is what makes it possible for her to create such a notable and nuanced film. She is firm in regard to not point out the women as guilty, or any other individuals either, and rather criticizes the system that is the porn industry:

 “My main point is that I am critical of the system. It is not about singling out bad guys and identifying evil people, but there are destructive systems, like patriarchy and capitalism, that are the cause. Additionally, the movie is a metaphor for our society with patriarchal structures and the class-society condensed. I don’t want to say that they are stupid in the porn industry. We too, are stupid.”

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