dir: Ninja Thyberg
This flick is a lot to handle.
A lot of painful stuff to handle.
Pleasure, despite its name, you’ll be amazed to find out, is really about its opposite. It’s about capitalism. It’s especially about the kind of capitalism that takes people, in this case women, and finds a way to profit from their sexual abuse on camera, in this, the glorious digital age in which we live.
This is no Boogie Nights, delighting us with outlandishly dated hairstyles and funky basslines and the sense that we juuuuust missed out on a really wicked party, while it lasted, before things got too dark and everyone sold out. This film has no illusions about this wretched “adult” business into which people often voluntarily launch themselves into.
I mean, low rent scumbags have been treating women terribly for millennia solely for their own gratification as abusers, but it takes true entrepreneurs to monetise that abuse and turn a profit from it. It’s a process that sees a woman transform from being a person to being a commodity, a malleable object to be contorted and consumed, until she’s got nothing left, and then…
Well, I don’t know. Are we talking about a person, or their image? When their abuse is “captured” on film, either as a photo or a movie, is it “done” at the end of the scene, or is it something that’s reignited every time it’s viewed or played? Is it not as bad if it gets lots of likes?
And what does it mean that abject misogyny is an in demand product?
And before it seems like I’m ignoring the obvious, yes, our main character Bella (Sofia Kappel) actively seeks out this industry by moving from Sweden to LA, specifically to work. There isn’t an abusive suitcase pimp boyfriend forcing her to work to fuel his coke addiction. There’s no reason per se that we’re privy to other than that she wants to make money and get an elevated profile in order to make more money, but other than that…
I think if the film shows anything it’s that even people who think they know what they’re getting into often have no fucking idea what they’re getting into, and that the viewers / consumers have no idea what these people go through behind the scenes and even on camera, and how saying “well, these people consented, we’ve got it on paper” doesn’t really convey the half of it.
Bella wants to make money, and fast, and isn’t naïve about what that would entail, as in, having to be naked on camera, and do things and have things done to her, with the usual kind of finish at the end. As awkward as the initial sex scene is, if anything, it’s just boring and gross. Bella only pretends to come alive right at the end when she’s faking enthusiasm for her own selfies which she posts online in order to get more followers. More followers and hearts means more demand for work, I guess, or better money?