Jerrold Tarog’s latest opus, Bliss, draws a handful of inspirations and influences from foreign genre films. At times it feels like a love letter to Hitchcock and Stephen King while it relentlessly spins Millennium Actress during the other times. But however foreign it may seem, Tarog has mastered a certain discipline that is his own. I mean, if you sit on a project as the writer, director, editor and musical scorer, who wouldn’t develop one right?

More than those influences I mentioned and the references you’ll catch, I think Tarog’s Carpool and Sana Dati have already laid the groundwork for Bliss. It’s the play on the form and structure of the film that makes it work. There’s also the nerve-racking tension that makes it more mental with each turn.

The story often requires patience when the movie or the dream or the flashback or the movie within the movie hits repeat. Confused? Well, you gotta know what you’ll be in for. The movie challenges its audience to see past its unsettling visuals and get completely immersed in the mind-numbing repetitions. I think Jerrold Tarog is a masochist for going through Bliss.

It’s almost hard not to feel for the beaten down Jane Ciego brilliantly played by Iza Calzado. She delivers an aching performance with just the right amount of subtlety, confusion and pain. The supporting cast also delivers their best, but Adrienne Vergara’s deranged nurse named Rose/Lilibeth was a standout. She just steals every scene she’s in with this incredible weight it actually challenges Calzado’s Jane to do more.

Director Jerrold Tarog also tackles the abuses in the entertainment industry. It’s probably the most interesting element of Bliss and I felt a little sad it was later abandoned. It did resonate though (for me at least). The most striking aspect of the movie is that despite it being tightly pieced together, it never forgets when to breathe. It just takes you to these degrees of confusion and modest tension until you’re one with the rhythm or you have totally given up trying to outsmart the film.

Fortunately, there’s a good pay off in the end. If there’s anything I got from the movie, it’s that sometimes we just fall as victims (of the world) and there’s almost no way around it. Whether it’s in your dreams or in reality we are all victims of something. As powerful as that may sound, it is a bit frustrating that they didn’t realize the movie can actually serve justice for its characters. I know it’s a stretch, but I honestly think it wouldn’t hurt the film. I guess it was too invested in Jane’s plight, but rightly so.

Nevertheless, the film is worth watching for its skillful execution and unsettling depiction of broken people. In the end, Bliss is a cerebral candy that pays homage to its inspirations and offers a unique experience to those who would like a piece of tasteful hemorrhage.

*cue music* Jastafraz’s Chechebureche – Wag Na Sana ‘kong Gumising Mag-Isa

Bliss opens in cinemas on May 10, 2017.

P.S.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t say anything about the X-Rating that Bliss has garnered via MTRCB. Well, that’s because at R18 and Uncut, I think it’s your right (as adults) to experience the dark, mature and violent themes that Bliss has to offer. It’s just something I believe you shouldn’t be talking about (or get much attention) because even in life they’re actually pretty real. I mean, at least if I you grew up like me, eating supper and watching dead bodies on TV Patrol. lol