Written and directed by Henrika Kull, in a world where their femininity is considered a commodity, two sex workers fall in love with each other. Together, and yet each on her own, they experience the one moment when happiness seems possible: but their love is threatened by different ideas of life and their own abysses. Starring: Katharina Behrens, Adam Hoya, Nele Kayenberg, Jean-Luc Bubert, Petra Kauner, Bence Máté, Sarah Junghauß and Mandy Schicker.
We’ve entered an age where women’s issues and perspectives are finally being accurately presented in cinema through the work of female filmmakers; Bliss is a perfect addition. While sex work is usually either glamorised or turned into a human-trafficking revenge thriller, Henrika Kull refreshingly views it through a realistic lens. It’s treated as what it ultimately is, a business, sex has a big part to play here but the film is also not inherently sexual. Kull very carefully picks her moments to explore sexuality and sensuality, resulting in a clever ability to entirely separate the physicality of their work versus their personal lives. What’s then more interesting is that it easily builds a romantic air when its two leading ladies are onscreen. They have the classic side glances and caught stares of a burgeoning romance.
Kull is also careful with her use of graphic images, there are pieces here and there, but for the most part it’s minimal. The direction is stylish but down to earth, there’s a huge variety to the shots and a great deal of handheld to keep its feet firmly on the ground but it never strays into trying to be gritty or dark. It’s done in such a way that it unquestionably accepts the touch of darkness that comes along with reality but never tries to cheaply enhance it. The romantic sex scenes are also done very well, they have a certain grace to them, while they don’t quickly cut away, they also don’t become gratuitous. In the ever-growing conversation of whether they’re necessary, here they perfectly serve the purpose to demonstrate the connection between the characters and the vastly different roles sex plays in their lives.
Katharina Behrens and Adam Hoya work extremely well together, creating utterly different characters who have an instant, deep connection. Their performances explore a wealth of different issues, particularly those of insecurities, anxieties, self-worth and perception. It’s an unconventional love story, perhaps along the lines of mixing Blue Valentine with Jumbo, and the two portray that well. Their connection is more conventional but the events that follow are much more tumultuous, revealing the hidden layers of their personalities.
Bliss is a refreshing take on a lesbian relationship, especially added with its blunt and honest view of sex work. It takes a different path for its romance but it’s not so far from what we know, mixing things up without changing the recipe to the utmost degree. Henrika Kull’s direction embraces the romantic side while never putting on rose coloured glasses, creating something relatable and compelling.