Sascha (Katharina Behrens) is a single mother who works at a brothel. Because of her son, she is tied to a community in Brandenburg, in which she does not feel at home nor at ease. When Maria (played by Adam Hoya, who was the subject of the 2019 documentary film Searching Eva) joins the establishment, the two women are attracted to each other instantly. Their newfound bliss is compromised by Sascha’s inability to disengage with the environment that makes her so miserable.

While the English title Bliss may have a sexual connotation, the German original, Glück, translates to luck/happiness, a term not traditionally associated with sex workers, who have historically been referred to as unfortunates.

Director Henrika Kull’s second feature deals with the ubiquitous search for happiness and how we think it can be found in other people. The protagonists are self-sufficient females who each have their issues, but how their money is earned is not one them. Their profession is neither glossed over via hyper-feminized bodies nor is it vilified. In fact, many-a-myth about the sex industry is debunked in this Panorama entry.

The women’s daily routines don’t involve make up and push-up bras; changing bedsheets and serving refreshments are a much more integral part of what they do. Instead of a sadistic madam, we have an affectionate maternal figure, who is very understanding of Sascha’s dilemma when a prospective client turns out to be someone from her home town and even makes up an excuse for her.

Bliss is a breezy 90-minute drama without much drama to speak of. Apart from the non-judgmental tackling of the milieu, there are no particularly novel elements that emerge from this story. The performances are solid, even as it is apparent that the cast is comprised mostly of non-professional actors. The inherent sex scenes are staged in a factual, almost asexual manner, a clear opposition to the infamous male gaze.

★★★☆☆

Selina Sondermann

Bliss (Glück) does not have a UK release date yet.

For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.

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