behind the dream of glory of a pornographic actress


There is a form of spiritual quest buried in the actions of Bella Cherry, this young Swedish woman in her twenties who arrives in Los Angeles to become the biggest porn star. A kind of vital impulse that inhabits her, while she pushes back each time a little more the limits of what his body can endure. To the question: why is she doing this? Ninja Thyberg is smart enough to never respond. Pleasure is the film that is made her heroine, and the filmmaker has the courtesy to follow her wherever she goes, without moralizing ulterior motives.

Pleasure is full of things at the same time: the story of a friendship, behind the scenes of an industry, the story of a devouring ambition, American dream style in the world of porn, and which in many ways recalls Showgirls, by Paul Verhoeven (1995), himself a remake ofEve, by Mankiewicz (1950). All the ingredients are there: a young first ready to do anything to become a “Spiegler girl”, named after LA’s most highly regarded agent, the cheap shots between girls, the negotiations to reach the top, the friendship sacrificed.

More deeply, Thyberg operates the same approach as Verhoeven, which consists in never psychologizing his heroine embodied by Sofia Kappel, splendid of nonchalance and opacity. At the beginning of the film, when an actor X asks Bella why she wants to do porn, she dares to mention a rape in her youth… before bursting out laughing. We won’t know more.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers “Pleasure” Interview with Ninja Thyberg (Director) and Sofia Kappel (main actress): “There is a form of honesty in porn”

Under his story of conquest, Pleasure hatches a fascinating theoretical subject: Thyberg uses the cinematographic image as a tool to reflect on the pornographic image and, in so doing, on its artisans and its consumers. The world of porn has nothing here of an unthinkable setting, it is the subject that obsesses the filmmaker, who has investigated for years, made a first short film on the subject (Pleasure, 2013), knows all about it and has met everyone. It is in part this documentary breeding ground that allows him his great analytical accuracy, this way of stripping down each filming sequence as if it contained a philosophical problem. In fact, Bella goes through all the states of porn: bondage, interracial or lesbian sex, hard scene in amateur porn which will prove to be traumatic.


Each time, the same beginnings: the shootings are like safe spaces where the whole team shows unfailing professionalism, ensuring that the actress is perfectly consenting and comfortable with what she has to do or undergo. And yet, as soon as you shoot the scene, it’s always the same leap into the void: no precaution or no contract prepares for a slap, a brutal fellatio or a spitting on the face. It is all the paradox of these scenes which seize a change: the actress is overprotected, a way of admitting that no violence can be framed, and that Bella is left alone to face the impulses – even scripted – of her partners. Sometimes the camera swings from its point of view, there seizing a stubborn belly, a foot, a piece of skin, as if it was the porn actress’ characteristic to have her gaze drowned under the flesh, while ‘itself is offered to the visible.

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