Bliss: A Sex Workplace Romance. By Joseph Ha.
Henrika Kull’s Bliss follows two sex workers in a German brothel, Sascha and Maria, and their romance after meeting at work. Sascha is divorced and has a son whom she is a bit estranged from. She also has a bitter relationship with her hometown which later causes some tension with her relationship with Maria. On the other hand, Maria is a slightly more mysterious character.
She is an Italian immigrant to Germany but for some unknown reason, dubs herself Jessy in the brothel. In her free time, she calls her father from time to time in her free time, but these calls are filled with odd fantastical details that conflict with the reality of her life. Additionally, she has a locker full of money that seems to be more than an average sex worker’s earnings, or at least more than Sascha’s earnings.
Like many cinematic relationships, the foundation of Sascha and Maria’s relationship is, funny enough, bliss, mainly bliss for Sascha. While the movie’s beginning doesn’t portray Sascha’s life as joyless, it contains some dissatisfaction. She doesn’t like spending time with her ex-husband, not even a platonic lunch together. Her only other relationships with men are her male clients who only treat her as a commodity.
But all that changes when Maria enters the picture. She has an attraction to Sascha as a person and writes poetry. Even Maria’s love scenes with Sascha display an emotional intimacy not found in their love scenes with clients. However, what Bliss does well is to show how Sascha needs healing before a loving relationship can bring lasting bliss into her life.
Another genius aspect of Bliss is the integration of sex work into a familiar story arc: the workplace romance. Although Bliss utilizes sex work as a background element, its impact on the protagonists’ lives and the stories it whispers save it from becoming a replaceable narrative component. Sexual intimacy in the workplace and between employees and client are taboo and subject to abusive power dynamics but what sort of relationships arise when the entire field of work is founded upon sexual intimacy
Refreshingly, Kull doesn’t portray sex work in the usual manner: a criminal, underground, seedy world full of vice, betrayal, and exploitation. Even if there is some truth to this image of sex work, the emphasis on this aspect blinds viewers to the truth of sex work, mainly that it’s a job like any other job with its own issues and filled with people trying to earn a living.
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