Joseph Walsh

Berlin 2012: ‘Bliss’ review

★★★★☆

Bliss (Glück, 2011) – directed by Doris Dörrie and adapted from the short story by Ferdinand von Schirach – recounts the tale of Irina (Alba Rohrwacher), who leaves her war-torn country to become a prostitute on the streets of Berlin and Kalle (Vinzenz Kiefer), also living in on the streets of the German capital. These two individuals are alone and lost in the world until they are brought together through a chance encounter. As their relationship blossoms, a cataclysmic event threatens to destroy their fledgling love, with Kalle forced to extreme measures in order to preserve their happiness.

There is a great deal to relish from this tremendously well-made love story. Bliss achieves a rare balance in the portrayal of the couple’s love, creating a believable relationship encased in near fantastical circumstances. Both humour and drama are used to great effect, often tinged with disturbingly dark moments of drama that bring home the reality of their situation. Matthias Brandt’s performance as defence lawyer Noah Leyden is also strong, adding enjoyable flourishes to a fine overall narrative.

Dörrie should also be commended for this excellent adaptation, managing to retain the literary quality of von Schirach’s story whilst being equally cinematic. The pastoral elements of Bliss are shot with care and consideration, juxtaposed with the underworld of Berlin’s street life. This is particularly true of the recounting of Irina’s life on her family farm, which is recreated in through her Berlin apartment. At these times, her past trauma and current happiness with Kalle sit uncomfortably next to each – a continual reminder as to the precarious nature of their situation.

Whilst a couple of redundant scenes and unnecessary embellishments add too little to the film to be justified, with Bliss, Dörrie has created a truly excellent film that captures the raw emotion of new found love in a realistic, yet at the same time fantastical manner – a joy to watch.

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Joe Walsh