An alienated punk and a war-refugee hooker prove that their feelings for one another go above and beyond societal constraints in “Bliss.” The latest from prolific Teuton writer-helmer Doris Doerrie is a grungy, Berlin-set tale of l’amour fou that wears an increasingly bloody heart on its sleeve. Lacking the humor, wit and easily relatable situations that made earlier pics such as “Men,” “Am I Beautiful?” and “Cherry Blossoms” international arthouse hits, “Bliss” won’t send Doerrie’s longtime fans into ecstasy. Constantin launches a domestic rollout Feb. 23.
Irina (Italian thesp Alba Rohrwacher, speaking pidgin Deutsch) flees her native Macedonia after marauding soldiers kill her parents and gang-rape her (all shown in slo-mo under swelling music). Winding up as an illegal alien in Berlin, she prostitutes herself on the street while fetchingly clad in silver hotpants and a platinum wig, meanwhile quelling her emotional pain by pressing pushpins into the firm flesh of her pretty thighs.
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Still an animal-loving farm girl at heart (her coverlet with embroidered sheep is a treasured possession), Irina falls for a friendly dog — a black Lab named Byron — and eventually his mohawked, mega-pierced owner, Kalle (Vinzenz Kiefer), a layabout who sleeps on the streets. The human couple’s unlikely bond grows stronger still when Irina helps Kalle dispose of Byron’s body after the dog is killed in a hit-and-run; much later, Kalle returns the favor, dismembering and burying the corpse of one Irina’s clients.
Inspired by the sensational criminal case recounted in “Bliss,” a story from defense attorney-scribe Ferdinand von Schirach’s bestselling novel “Crime,” Doerrie’s screenplay tries to flesh out the unconditional love that would prompt such behavior, but despite Rohrwacher and Kiefer’s best efforts, the result plays as more ludicrous than credible.
Blending the grit of the Berlin streets with moments (and items) of whimsical sentiment to queasy effect, the pic’s visual style feels as wildly over-the-top as the tone; ditto the score and music track.