Swedish writer-director Ninja Thyberg’s debut feature is a thought-provoking, sexually explicit and frequently funny exploration of the porn industry. The filmmaker reverses the male gaze and penetrates the industry from different angles, mainly through the perspective of her lead protagonist, Bella Cherry. She is played by newcomer Sofia Kappel, who pours her heart and soul into the demanding role of a Swedish girl who moves to LA with one goal in mind: becoming the next big porn star.
The youthful superstar dream premise is old as heartache, but Kappel sells every beat, and never limits the character to single notes: Bella is captivating, ambitious, headstrong and vulnerable, and you stick with her through thick and thin. As a debut performance, it’s nothing short of outstanding, and matched every step of the way by Thyberg’s clear immersion in the LA porn scene. Not only is every role outside Bella’s cast with real industry performers – adding an extra layer of authenticity – but the multi-faceted porn world and the preconceptions that surround it are thoughtfully addressed, challenged and laid bare. Pleasure is a powerful debut and we can’t wait to see what Thyberg and Kappel do next.
Pleasure / D: Ninja Thyberg (Sweden, 2021), with Sofia Kappel, Kendra Spade, Evelyn Claire. Starts: January 13.