Friday, May 19, 2017

Bliss

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_(2017_film)
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Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado) always knew that she wanted to be a star. Treading the typical child actress path, she ends up burned-out and drowning in dreams she’s not even sure are hers. Producing an indie horror flick in hopes of earning respect from her peers, she figures in an accident while shooting a crucial scene, falling 20 feet and landing head first on a wooden headboard. She wakes up on a wheelchair in an unfamiliar house accompanied by her bum husband Carlo (TJ Trinidad) and placed under the care of a deranged nurse named Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara). She soon finds herself caught in a vicious time loop, starting the day with the sight of the smoke alarm on her ceiling followed by her husband preparing breakfast before asking her to sign a cheque to fund his “restaurant equipment”. It doesn’t take long before she begins responding to the name Abigail and seeing her husband replaced by her co-star Joshua (Ian Veneracion), who insists that she must be hallucinating. It dawns on her that she is not just stuck at Abigail’s haunted house, but rather she’s also forced to live the life of the character she is portraying onscreen, over and over again.

Calzado really has nothing to prove when it comes to her capabilities as an actress. She has always been a reliable character actor. However, this film serves as an ideal vehicle for her to showcase her range, and what better way to do that than portray the role of an actress in a movie within a movie. Given the psychological nature of the material, the eventual blur between reel and real provides ample opportunity for a bravura performance. You know you’ve given the role justice when your character’s confusion is tangible enough to transcend the screen. Only a legit actress can give you that kind of cinematic mindfuck.

There are scenes early on in the film in which certain minute details, such as the swirling bubbles on a cup of coffee or the pulsating green light of an incoming call, figure in a sudden close-up. It achieves a certain type of effect making you feel as though you are there with them filming the sequence. And then there are shots that reflect the current state of mind of the character, seeing the camera fixated on Jane as everyone and everything in the background appear fuzzy or simply out of focus. It helps reinforce the same question in your head. Is Jane dreaming? Is this an elaborate ploy orchestrated by a conniving husband and an unidentified mistress to get her money? Is she on a demented version of Big Brother?

There are subplots aplenty concerning the supporting characters. You have the overbearing stage mother, the bum husband, the unhinged nurse, the ambitious director. The good thing about this is that they do not really distract you from the main storyline. Instead, they help you figure out the necessary clues required to piece together the enigmatic puzzle which is Jane Ciego’s actual dilemma. It makes you think and ask questions. Speculation is always a good plot device to keep your viewers interested. Bliss takes advantage of that and, to some extent, succeeds.

It is rather unfortunate that the film got noticed because of the frontal nudity involved, which in itself is neither pornographic nor done in bad taste. What people should find disturbing is the circumstance involved in those scenes. If you protest the mere sight of breasts yet choose to ignore the elephant in the room which is sexual abuse, then there is something seriously wrong with you. In the end, it is YOU who we should find disturbing. The scenes in question could have been avoided, but it might end up not having the same impact.

Bliss is a good psychological thriller. It does delve into paranormal domain once in a while but it is completely aware of what it aims to be, and sticks to that objective. The sound effects and imagery are effectively utilized to establish a sinister and tense atmosphere, but it is the psychological aspect itself that provides most of the thrill. After all, a tortured human psyche is way worse an enemy than any overpowdered ghost you might see lurking in your living room at one in the morning. Reality is scary. Losing your grip of it? Even more so.


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