Bliss is, in all technicality, a vampire movie. I use
technicality, not in the sense that the film is trying to hide its vampire-ness or to suggest that a vampire concept is bourgeois. Instead, Bliss uses the conceit as a means to present a movie which true premise is focused on creativity and addiction.
We follow Dezzy, a punk rock cover designer and artist. She has hit a creative block, and the central painting of her soon-to-open exhibition has stood untouched for three months. If she can’t finish it, her show will be canceled, and she will be out on the street.
Desperate, angry, and fed-up, Dezzy trapes to one of her old haunts, and lapses back into a drug binge after an extended period of sobriety. The substance,
Bliss, hits like an intense hallucinogenic, and Dezzy descents into the darkest corners of her mind, using the lapse to re-fuel her creativity. With every nightly binge, her work turns darker, and visions of previous evenings come back to her in pieces: visions of being bit, visions of drinking blood, visions of eating someone. The realization creeps in that she has been turned into a vampire.
The vampire angle pairs well with the addiction theme, to the point where it might even be too on the nose. Cravings, blackouts, etc. – it’s somewhat predictable, yet a good fit none the less.
More importantly, Bliss does not fall victim of going the
she’s happy and creative when the highs hit, dejected after route. Dezzy is miserable through each binge, the
Bliss being as intense as it is numbing. Her creativity doesn’t happen because of the drugs, it happens despite them. The real tragedy of the story is that Dezzy could have created something better, had her destructive side not taken over.
Visually and sonically, Bliss mirrors Dezzy’s surreal descent. Colors and sound marry into scenes that transition fluidly from dreams to nightmares. As Dezzy slips into the darkness, the world around her turns paradoxically saturated, with strobing lights and high-pitched sounds piercing through it. It makes for both a disconcerting viewing and listening, well-matched by a hard-hitting punk rock soundtrack.
And Dora Madison as Dezzy? Rarely have I seen someone throw themselves so convincingly into a role. Her raw portrayal of anger and confusion does not let up throughout the film. It’s a performance that matches the script absolutely perfectly. Even this early on, I’m sure it will stand as one of the year’s best performances.
(Also, George Wendt is puzzlingly in the film. I do not know why, and his two minutes of screen time seems wasted.)
Bliss deep dives into a difficult and uncomfortable subject without any sugarcoating. It’s a heavy viewing for sure, but also thoroughly fascinating.