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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Bliss ***

Starring: Katharina Behrens, Adam Hoya, Nele Keyenberg, Jean-Luc Bubert

Director: Henrika Kull

Country: Germany

Sascha (Behrens) is a sex worker, working in a brothel in Berlin. She’s professional and good at her job. But when Maria (Hoya) arrives, she begins to fall in love with her co-worker, swept up in the thralls of romance by night and enduring functional sex with clients by day. But it isn’t long before they begin to struggle to reconcile their profession with their feelings for each other.

There is no doubt that this dark romance is intended to shock. The scenes in the brothel are uncensored, not shying away from depicting the darkest extremes of their work. Both Sascha and Maria adopt an alterego; flirty, fun but assertive. But when the curtain is drawn back on their lives, this is a workplace just like any other; break-out rooms, refreshments, office gossip.

This might be X-rated, but there’s very little that’s sexy about its sex scenes. And once the initial shock of their no-holds-barred work passes, there’s little about it that would make most people reach for their pearls. Their job is their job and the film succeeds greatly in depicting this as somewhat unremarkable. But what is remarkable is the tenderness that develops between the two. They might have extraordinary jobs, but underneath they are very ordinary girls, who want to love and feel loved too. The film does well to take the stereotype of a sex worker and smash it into tiny irrelevant pieces. And for that, it can only be commended.

The first half of the film is sweet, following the conventions of a standard romance, even if there is a lot more sexual content with partners who are not their intended. The second half, however, is where it finds its legs, even if it does feel somewhat inconsequential at times. It reverts to the narrative trope that a sex worker can’t have a healthy relationship and continue her day job, but it does place a meaty dilemma at its centre for its protagonists to face. It’s certainly an unconventional romance, but when boiled down to its base narrative, this is fairly simplistic stuff.

UK Release: 24th December 2021 in cinemas and VOD, released by Bohemia Media.


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