Henrika Kull’s debut Bliss (Glück) is an intimate – if a bit quick – encapsulation of the vulnerabilities of falling in love and accepting yourself.
Falling in love can be exciting, fun and playful. It also can be hard, complicated and frustrating. It can be quick or it can be slow, but it’s almost always scary. Opening yourself up to someone can be a daunting prospect, particularly if there are parts of yourself and of your life that you haven’t fully come to terms with yet. Henrika Kull’s debut film Bliss (or Glück in its original German) encapsulates this process, and is a reflective and restrained rumination on the internalisation of self-acceptance and the intimacy of forming connection.
Sascha (Katharina Behrens) is a sex worker, working in a Berlin brothel, who seems pretty at ease with her lot in life: seeing her young son every few days, with a steady cluster of regular clients and a close bond with the other women at her work. Maria (Adam Hoya) is the new girl, independent and artistic, with a spark that Sascha is immediately drawn to. The pair’s budding relationship is tested as each woman deals with the complicated emotional journey of falling in love with someone whilst coming to terms with yourself.
Bliss is writer/director Henrika Kull’s debut film and a really intimate, quiet portrait of the process of making yourself open enough to fall in love. It’s a confident debut, assured of its ability to convey tone, atmosphere and feeling with little dialogue, and doesn’t ever lose its way or stray into feeling too vague or unexplained. The film captures the sense of vulnerability that comes with opening yourself up to another person, of showing them the messy parts of yourself as you build a relationship. Sascha and Maria have their own internal struggles, but Kull doesn’t rely on exposition or big reveals to get these across. Instead, she trusts her audience will fill in the gaps, interpret what isn’t being said and come to their own conclusions, and she equally trusts her cast to deliver the right stepping stones through their performances.
Sascha and Maria’s relationship is as much about the physical intimacy as it is about the emotional. They’re very tactile and express themselves through soft touches and glances, rather than long conversations. It doesn’t make the relationship feel any less authentic, but does mean it teeters on the edge of feeling rushed. Behrens and Hoya give really intriguing, beguiling performances. Sascha appears so confident and self-assured, but as she gets closer to Maria it becomes clear that she’s struggling with self-acceptance, with a past that has affected her ability to be comfortable in acknowledging happiness. Maria is desperately lonely, channelling pain and emotion into poetry and contemplating what it means to be a woman, to be feminine. Sascha’s stability is captivating for Maria, but she’s wary of the instability that’s actually underneath. Maria’s otherness is captivating for Sascha, but she’s wary of letting herself be as free as Maria appears. The pair have genuine chemistry and their ability to convey so much through the minute details of their physical performances allows the relationship to feel really naturalistic, intimate and authentic, if a little rushed.
Kull’s camera and direction gives Bliss an almost voyeuristic quality, but not in a manner that feels salacious or forced. The film is a character study that remains at something of a remove from its characters, but not in a way that feels disconnected. It’s the beginning of a relationship in its purest form – all of the emotions and intense physicality – that doesn’t linger on the personal details as, ultimately, they’re inconsequential. Bliss is about connection and the uncomfortable, awkward, scary and rewarding process of revealing your self to someone else.
Bliss (Glück) was released by Bohemia in UK cinemas and on select digital platforms on 24th December, 2021.