Artikulo Uno Productions
by Yuri Mangahas
Truth be told, we have seen a multitude of local films that aim to discuss topics beyond the boundaries of the Pinoy norm. From the stark lens of Erik Matti, to the bold and aggressive angles of Brilliante Mendoza, and to the persevering will of Lav Diaz, filmakers of our era have an aptitude to break away from the chain of mainstream local movies, creating a distinctive mark which sets their brand apart from other helmers – which in turn, presents a problem for budding storytellers. In an ocean filled with dragons, it would be difficult to shine an edge towards the stage. Some may even say that we have seen the best of Philippine cinema.
Apparently, they’re wrong.
Thankfully, there are other helmers like Jerrold Tarrog, who doesn’t faze away from experimenting on different aspects of the human condition. This time, he veers away from action and romance as he delves deeper into the carnals of the psyche.
The story revolves around Jane Ciego (played by Iza Calzado), a successful actress who produces her own film in an attempt to achieve respect from the industry. A fateful accident, however, places the movie’s production to a halt, as it leaves her disabled. To that regard, she was left in her home under the care and supervision of her husband, Carlo (TJ Trinidad), and an atypical, yet cruel nurse named Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara). As the days go by, she realizes that things are not what they seem to be, as she slowly descends into a maze of insanity whilst trapped in the security of her own home.
If you are expecting a straightforward plot by parsing the summary above, you may want to step out of the cinema. This is not your typical dose of coffee.
Unlike other movies, Bliss utilizes a non-linear approach to its narrative, in an attempt to make the audience think and feel towards the ultimate truth of the story. Its brilliant usage of medias res elements, coupled with comic book-style subtlety might take some viewers aback, but it provides a fresh breath of air to the manner Pinoy movies are being told.
Bliss is an amalgam homage of sorts to various cinematic prodigies and their respective styles as well. Some shots and visual imagery clearly scream influence from late animator Satoshi Kon, while its bizarre, yet ingenious narrative are seemingly inspired by Christopher Nolan’s repertoire. Despite the influences used, Tarrog still succeeded in bringing his flavor to the film, stamping Bliss as own brain’s fruit.
The movie is unhinged in its attempt to mirror the harsh reality of the film industry. It is triumphant in presenting the harrowing condition of the biz in its bare, unglamorous state. Despite discussing the matter in parodized form, it agressively pushes the concurrent issue that exists within the industy, one that needs to be taken into account.
Bliss also serves as an avenue for its cast to showcase their wide range of abilities as actors. Each one of them manages to take hold of the spotlight, as they fittingly transform into the characters woven by Tarog’s inquisitive mind.
Iza Calzado’s portrayal of Jane Ciego is a testament to her talent as a thespian. After spending more than a decade in films and TV, Calzado have proven that she had what it took to wear the shoes of the aforementioned character. She brings a sense of nuance and vulnerability to her role, allowingly the viewer to take a peek into Jane’s motivations, desires, and needs.
Adrienne Vergara, on the other hand, is a total revelation, as her terrifying, yet charming portrayal of Lilibeth easily made her a favorite in the film. Moreso, let us not forget the finesse of the theatrical veteran Audie Gemora. His memorable performance as the hypocritical helmer Lexter Palao is definitely one of the best parts of Bliss, and I would not be surprised if he will be receiving more roles like this in the coming years.
In conclusion, Bliss is probably the best film of 2017, yet. It is an unforgiving, yet beautiful example of storytelling taken to the next level. It is also an examination into subjectivity, as it dares us to challenge our own perceptions of reality. Definitely, this is a must watch for cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike.