Sundance Film Festival: ‘Pleasure’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Pleasure is definitely a midnight film, that I should have watched at midnight, and not at nine in the morning. But hey, these are the choices I had to make. I was instantly intrigued by the premise of Pleasure because I enjoy films that have women, freely exploring their sexuality. Writer-director Ninja Thyberg highlighted how emotional and psychologically damaging, the porn industry can be, for young women starting out in their career. 20-year-old Linnéa (Sofia Kappel) from Sweden, travels all the way to Los Angeles to become the next big porn star. She is taken for a loop, when she finds out that the industry is very competitive and she eventually becomes a product of her environment.

The reason why Pleasure was so interesting to watch was because of the female gaze. If a man was directing this film, it would have looked and felt completely different. What Thyberg does is focus on the act of sex as a job, like any other. All jobs come with their issues and Thyberg showed a day-in-the-life of a porn star. Like all industries, the job is competitive and it does take a mental, physical and emotional toll on you. Linnéa aka Bella wanted some adventure in her life and she wanted to fame, more than anything. At first we see her as timid and sweet. Then as the film goes on, we see this fire in her, this passion and drive for her work. Bella wanted to conquer everything but it came with a price.

Bella talked a big game but she was a rookie. She wanted to do what all the stars were doing in regards to sexual preferences for videos. She ended up in really horrible situations that broke her. There are moments in Pleasure where we can see that Bella’s emotions get the best of her and the tough exterior shell is stripped away. It also looks deep into the value of the industry and the various categories that people search for. Thyberg did not shy away from rough sexual scenes because it was necessary to show how vulgar they are. She also tastefully kept the frame on Bella and explored her emotions, while experiencing these scenes, which feel like torture.

Pleasure has a very different take on the porn industry. Ninja Thyberg takes the intimacy out of sex and instead shows the intimacy with oneself. It show how women look at themselves and treat their own bodies. I think that is the most important takeaway. Women have full control over their bodies, even when they think they don’t. We watch Bella go through some horrible moments but in the end it is how she chooses to control the situation. Her determination overpowers her logic at times and that is what makes her story so interesting to watch.