Two sex workers fall in love in this low-key L.G.B.T.Q. drama from Germany.
“Bliss,” by the German director Henrika Kull, is a moody art-house romance about the everyday struggles of two Berlin sex workers. Shot in an actual legal brothel, the film avoids sensationalizing the profession and sidesteps commentary about the exploitation of women. There are several graphic sex scenes involving the two lovers and their clients, but Kull captures these events with an admirable sense of regularity — the film, for better or worse, doesn’t make any big statements; it simply attempts to get at the knottiness of its characters’ inner lives.
A veteran sex worker, the middle-aged Sascha (Katharina Behrens) is intrigued by the 20-something new girl, Maria (Adam Hoya, a former escort and the star of the 2019 documentary profile “Searching Eva”), who is from Italy. Maria’s German-language skills are rudimentary, so the couple speak to each other in English, summoning prickly power dynamics in the moments the older woman reverts to her native tongue.
Sascha and Maria’s relationship unfolds somewhat banally, which would normally detract from a story with such generic romantic plotting: The two fall in love; trouble ensues when they enter the unfamiliar territory of Sascha’s rural hometown, Brandenburg, where elements of her former life emerge; the promise of reconciliation lingers in the final act. But because “Bliss” is about lesbians stealing kisses between sessions with their male customers, the formula works to normalize what might otherwise seem willfully risqué.
Instead, the film’s brothel setting inspires questions about the attitudes of sex workers from distinct generations — Sascha sees it all as plain dirty work, but the more idealistic Maria, who calls herself a “performer,” buys in a bit more to the profession’s fantasies of empowerment. Kull frames this discrepancy as an extension of their sundry personal differences, many of which feel completely ordinary. We tend to look at the sex lives of sex workers as endlessly fascinating, but in “Bliss” the line of work is instead part of a larger take on the hurdles of modern romance.
Not rated. In German, English and Italian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. In theaters.
Source: Movies - nytimes.com