Often films about sex workers do not see them or portray them as human beings. They are only shown as a kind of sex robot. No emotions or life outside of their jobs. That is changed up here. Screening until Sunday, October 31 on the Festival du Nouveau Cinema platform, Henrika Kull’s (Jibril) film Bliss (Gluck in German) film attempts to flesh out the world and characters in this film centered in the world of sex workers.
At a brothel in Berlin, Sascha (Katharina Behrens – Villa Eva) is a veteran sex worker. She knows all the ins and outs and how to get repeat clients. Her world changes when a young Italian woman named Maria (Adam Hoya – first film) begins working there. Right away, Sascha is drawn to the independent Maria. Maria sees sex work as performance and obviously does not need the money as it seems like her family is well off. Soon the two very different women have begun a passionate love affair.
What begins as hot burning quickly begins to crumble due to the two women’s different outlooks on life and their own issues. Happiness appears as a potential then it disappears just as fast as it came. This unlikely romance does not seem like it is going to last.
This is Kull’s second feature film and it screened previously at this year’s Berlinale. Every moment here feels so authentic. This is helped by the excellent camerawork as well as the solid performances by the two leads – Katharina Behrens and Adam Hoya. Tucked within the romance side of the story are important universal subjects like self-determination, ownership over your body and identity. All these things are part of the story in a very natural way, meaning we are not hit over the head with any of it. Even the men in the film are discreetly there seemingly just to remind us this is a man’s world ruled over by the patriarchy.
One aspect of the film that really had me thinking was the colliding of the worlds of sex work and queerness. Sex work for women is based on their level of femininity. That is what is being sold. When they become involved in a queer relationship that seems to devalue them at their jobs. The sex work world is revealed as being filled with homophobia – especially for female sex workers.