Artikulo Uno Productions
Movie Review: ‘Bliss’ (2017)
by Maria Mantaluta
Iza Calzado, an actress playing an actress playing an actress in the psychosexual thriller ‘Bliss’. From the director of ‘Sana Dati’ and ‘Heneral Luna’, East Winds Film Festival 2017 were delighted to present the newest film signed by Jerrold Tarog. Premiered at Osaka Asian Film Festival in Japan, ‘Bliss’ had its European Premiere on the festival’s second day.
With the Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performer won by Iza Calzado at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and an ‘X’ rating in Philippines, the film’s country of origin, ‘Bliss’ is at the least a controversial film, as a result of its unmediated depiction of violence, nudity and sexual relations. But it’s not the blood, the sex, or the nudity that shocks, it’s the crooked smiles, the sadistic laughs, the emptiness, anxiety and exhaustion behind the flashy face of the entertainment industry.
A surreal nightmare, with a touch of horror and a hint of tragic-comic humour, ‘Bliss’ could be considered a self-ironical depiction of the world in which the film was born. A jungle of blinding lights, red carpets, autographs, fans, success, money, recognition, make-up and paints, where only the strongest survive, where only the final product matters, not the people, not their feelings, and where anything from wives to daughters, from sanity to heath, from dreams to desires can be sacrificed on the altar of fame.
Jane Ciego is a victim of this world, a victim who willingly stepped into this maze of glitter and monsters, of stars and shadows. With a brilliant career, a ‘happy’ marriage, a dream house, a perfect body, the protagonist decides to wish even bigger, she wants to be recognised as an artist, not only as a pretty face, so she becomes the producer of her own film; with a keen director who transforms the film’s sets on a slave plantation, the unlikely happens. Jane is critically injured during the filming of the production’s climax and falls into a deep coma, just to wake up on a bed in a new house… or so it seems.
Jane’s trauma brings a constant negotiation between memories, nightmares, films and TV shows, making the actress’ contour of reality balance between her life and her role. Her memories become her character’s, her character’s story becomes her own, and Jane and Abigail merge in a dramatic attempt of regaining her sanity under the foul gaze of nurse Rose/Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara), yet another victim of a society which does not care for its children.
The figure of the husband is vicious, the mother is corrupted, the nurse is mentally unstable, and the director is in a race for Cannes and success. And all, like ferocious beasts crave for something from Jane, her image, her body, her money, and they have no mercy in taking it despite her inability of fighting back.
The film challenges the industry, but more, it challenges human nature when put face to face with luxury, fame, and money. What makes the film hard to digest, but asks for a second view is that all the characters, which were nevertheless excellently performed, in their monstrous forms, are deeply human.
The cinematography comes to wrap the whole production, with its dreamy and claustrophobic atmosphere, enhancing the film’s intensity and the uneasy sensation that a puzzle piece is missing.