'Bliss' director hopes audiences reflect on abuse

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Just as the psychological thriller Bliss delves into the mind of its lead character, so does director Jerrold Tarog wish to probe the minds of his audience.

"Personally, I don't really make movies to have any message out there. It's more of to raise questions," Tarog told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday. "So I'm just hoping people will think about whether they're trapped in a cycle of abuse or not."

The psychological thriller Bliss follows the descent into madness of an actress Jane Ciego, played by Iza Calzado.

Tarog called the film was "an essay on cycles of abuse... set in the film industry."

He added that he drew "from stories that I've heard from filmmakers... who tend to work with directors na medyo [who are a bit of a] diva, then yung mga kwento ng mga [storie of] stage mothers [in] showbiz." Tarog also drew from films of various genres.

The film drew controversy after garnering an X-rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, though the agency later retracted the rating, marking it with an R-18 rating instead.

Related: 'Bliss' gets new R-18 rating

Actor TJ Trinidad, who stars opposite Calzado, agreed with Tarog.

"It's not really a message of what the director is trying to convey," said Trinidad. "I think it's more that to appreciate that we can show these types of films here and it's accepted and people will, and it will be a success. We don't just treat your normal formula movies as the only ones that can make money."

Adrienne Vergara, who plays a nurse in the movie, added that its screening "tests that Filipino people are already ready for this kind of film."

She said that the film tackled mental, physical, and psychological abuse and said it was something that ordinary Filipinos can also relate to.

"Actually it's very important that we get to have the will to wake up especially now in the real life wherein we're trapped in a nightmare like every day with all the news. We need to wake up and get to action," Vergara also said of the film's message.

Bliss opened on Wednesday and is now showing in over 70 cinemas nationwide.

Tarog is also the director of the box office historical action biopic Heneral Luna, which chronicles the life of Filipino war hero Antonio Luna.

His next project will be Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, a sequel starring Paulo Avelino as the revolutionary young general Gregorio del Pilar.

Tarog disclosed that shooting would begin by the end of May and would probably take more than 50 days.

"It's larger than Heneral Luna in terms of scale," said Tarog.

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is slated for release next year.