MANILA – Filmmaker Jerold Tarog feels quite relieved that his psychological thriller “Bliss” is now going to be shown in its original form after the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has reclassified it as an R-18 film.
The movie starring Iza Calzado was originally rated X for scenes featuring prolonged frontal nudity, excessive violence, and masturbation.
Speaking on ANC’s “Early Edition” on Monday, Tarog admitted he was not expecting an X rating in the first place.
“I’m actually not sure what happened in the second panel because I really didn’t get the chance to defend. I did go to MTRCB but they only called me after they made the second rating,” he said. “I’m just relieved because it’s something that we worked hard on. Everybody should have a chance to see Iza’s performance here because she really did her best.”
Asked what made him decide to take on taboo themes in this movie, Tarog said his reasons are pretty mundane since he just wanted to make something out of the box.
“I just pitched several stories and one of them was about the idea of how to portray cycles of abuse in a film within a film. It’s kind of a complicated creative process I took from a lot of films that influenced me. There are also some scenes that actually came from my own personal films,” he said.
“The material isn’t something completely new when you look at it on a global lens. But as far as I know, I haven’t seen something like this locally. That was the whole idea. To make a psychological horror movie,” he added.
For Tarog, the Filipino audience has always been ready for films tackling these kinds of themes.
Meanwhile, Calzado thinks the controversy surrounding her movie “might have been more helpful than harmful.”
The release of the MTRCB rating also could not have happened at a better time, Calzado said, because it came a few weeks after "Bliss" made its premiere at the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival, where she was awarded the prestigious Yakushi Pearl Award for her performance.
“Because I won that award, I guess when this whole controversy happened, people were more upset that they can’t watch the film, something that was already recognized abroad. It helped that we won the award just a few weeks before the MTRCB rating. Everything just fell into place,” she said.
Does she feel the need to be recognized by an international body first to legitimize or validate the kind of work she does?
“The thing with me is I never really fully understand if I’ve already given [my best]. I just know that I did my best at that certain time. When I was watching the film, I just knew that okay, maybe some parts I wasn’t super happy with but generally I was pretty happy with my performance. Of course winning an international award reinforces that good feeling about your work but at the same time, I can’t say that I have to be totally dependent on that,” said Calzado.
A synopsis for "Bliss" reads: "Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado) started acting in showbiz at a young age. Now in her 30s, she decides to produce her own film to win some respect in the industry."
"But things do not go as planned and an accident on location cripples her. Jane wakes up unable to walk and trapped in her own home, a large house filled with strange sounds and people who may want to harm her."
"She is looked over by her cold husband Carlo and a sadistic nurse named Lilibeth, and then there is Rose, a nurse wanted by authorities for sexually molesting a patient."
"She mysteriously enters Jane’s life and soon begins affecting her dreams as much as her waking life. Jane’s sanity begins to crumble as the horrors pile up in a symphony of blood, tears and madness. What was supposed to be a simple dream for Jane soon becomes an endless nightmare."
According to Tarog, the production team will be preparing an edited version of “Bliss” for a lower age rating for screening.
“One of the main issues of the first panel was actually the nudity. That part is easy. It’s just a matter of applying blurs and covering up certain areas of the frame. I don’t think it’s that too big of a compromise,” he said.
"Bliss" will be shown in theaters starting May 10.