Penetrating The Industry: Pleasure (2021) - Reviewed

Ninja Thyberg attacks the modern adult film industry head on with the independent feature, Pleasure. 

Based on her 2013 short of the same name, the 2021 full length takes a deeper dive into the manipulative and vindictive porn business that's powered by rape, misogyny and a calculated abuse of male power. As one of the better releases of the year, Pleasure is a dose of reality that may change some minds about internet porn and the abuses these women face on a daily basis. Expanding on several themes that include racism and sexism in the industry, Thyberg takes us on a grueling expedition through the ranks of pornography and how it dehumanizes its female subjects. 

When a young Swedish girl steps off the plane to begin her new career as an adult film actress, she thrusts herself into an underbelly that's lined with disappointment, hollow friendships and a hungry void that attempts to eat her alive. While the film mostly attacks the negativity of the industry, it also takes a look at the duality and the power struggle that lines the streets of porn alley. Through the eyes of Bella Cherry (actress Sofia Kappel), we're shown the full experience of celebrity that's gained through self harm at the cost of losing your soul. But we're also shown how Bella takes control of her career and moves through the system with drive and ambition, making the moves to push her stardom into the upper echelon as a modern porn goddess. 

Thyberg has been exploring female sexuality for nearly 20 years and is a former anti-porn activist. Her latest film, Pleasure forces her audience to face the harsh realities of working on these sets and the brutality that women are put through for the exploitative satisfaction of the people in charge and their audience. Despite the clear message that most of the sexual actions are done with full clarity and permission, it's still not a healthy lifestyle. Thyberg understands exactly how to ride a fine line without vindicating anyone's actions and never paints any specific person at fault. Choices are made by both sides, revealing the underside and hard truths of a business that's inhumane and brutal at the cost of perverse entertainment. 

Told in a fairy tale style, Pleasure follows the rise of Linnea, stage name Bella Cherry, as she transcends the world of porn. From lowly shoots to high quality productions and travels, Bella sees her future and uses her talents to rise to the top. Unfortunately, her transcendence takes us through the dregs of rough sex scenes, forced scenarios, physical torture and bodily abuse that sees Bella pushing her own physical and mental limits to full tilt. Starring all people from the adult industry, other than Kappel, the movie has a realism to it that's fully realized and straight to the point. If it had starred known actors, it just wouldn't have worked. 

If you can stomach moments of sexual torture and physical pain, Pleasure is a must see that doesn't use its hardcore scenes to arouse or incite. Instead, Thyberg uses a message about female empowerment despite the odds stacked against her central character. It also serves as a modern look at how women must work so much harder than men to get to the top of the ranks. As a first time actress, Sofia Kappel is absolutely captivating in each scene, offering us a natural performance that's never fully sidelined by her on screen beauty. 

What could have been a hit piece on the industry, plays both sides of the spectrum, showing us the good and the bad.