Sofia Kappel is outstanding as the young starlet in Ninja Thyberg’s exploration of the dark desires that lie at the heart of the adult film industry.
Kappel plays Linnéa, a 19-year-old who has arrived from Sweden to LA with hopes of becoming a porn star. She already has a stage name, Bella Cherry, an agent and a contract for her first film. She moves in with other porn actors and understands what is demanded of her to achieve the success she craves. But with each transaction, each role she plays, it becomes clear that in a business that prides itself on safeguards and protecting those involved in it, there is an air of violence and depravity, with actors ‘gently’ coerced into crossing boundaries in what they are willing, and expected, to perform on camera.
In its opening section, the film possesses a documentary approach in its portrait of this world. It’s an effective manoeuvre that distances us from the action and allows Thyberg to establish a critical perspective. Nevertheless, the film is explicit. But its gaze is in stark contrast to the voyeurism of a porn film. It’s never quite clear why Linnéa has chosen this profession – there are hints of past trauma, a desire to experiment and unbridled ambition. In keeping Linnéa character’s motivations ambiguous, Thyberg focuses more on the reality of her situation and the world around her, which is mostly populated by real adult film performers. The result is an unsettling portrait of life in a world driven by audience’s increasing desire for extremity.