Bliss (1985)

Bliss (1985)

Taglines: After Harry Joy dropped dead… his life was never the same again.

An advertising executive dies and goes to hell… except nothing changes. Well, his daughter is buying drugs with sexual favours from her brother, and the number of cancer-causing products is on the increase. But the notes he writes to himself to prove he hasn’t gone insane are getting more disjointed, and he runs off with an ex-prostitute called Honey Barbera.

Bliss is a 1985 Australian film directed by Ray Lawrence, co-adapted by Lawrence and Peter Carey, author of the original novel Bliss from which it is adapted.

It starred Barry Otto who, at the time, was best known in Sydney for his theatre work, and Lynette Curran, a veteran star of Australian stage, TV and film and a former co-star of the popular ABC soap opera Bellbird. Notable among the supporting roles is an early film appearance by Gia Carides and an early cameo role by John Doyle.

After a rocky start – 400 of the 2000-strong audience walked out during its first screening at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival – the film went on to receive multiple awards at the AFI awards.

Bliss (1985)

About the Story

Harry Joy, an advertising executive in an unnamed Australian city who is known for his ability to tell stories, has a terrifying near-death experience after suffering a massive heart attack, brought on by his dissolute lifestyle. Upon recovering, he believes himself to be either in a hellish version of the world he knew, or with his eyes opened to an altogether different view of that world. He eventually discovers that his wife is unfaithful, his dissolute daughter trades sex for hard drugs with his deviant son, and his latest client is a carcinogenic polluter.

Harry tries to reform and steer a morally correct path, abandoning most of the trappings of his previous affluent life, to the dismay and disruption of everyone around him. He is also seemingly ‘tested’ by a series of bizarre and frightening events including being ‘sectioned’ to a psychiatric hospital.

In one memorable sequence, Harry is dragged through a bizarre and blackly humorous chain of events, in which he smokes marijuana for the first time with a terminally ill waiter friend, then has his car crushed by an elephant and is finally arrested. The extended version of this sequence was cut from the original theatrical release after its premiere at Cannes, but the full length scene featuring a tour-de-force monologue by Barry Otto (captured in a single unedited take) was restored for the film’s re-issue in the 1990s.

Fighting for his sanity, Harry flees his home and takes up residence in a hotel, where meets a young hippie country girl, Honey Barbara, who prostitutes herself and helps a friend sell marijuana on trips to the city to bring money back to their forest commune. Harry decides that Barbara is his true love but he is soon drawn back into his old ways, and she with him.

She eventually rejects Harry’s lapse back to materialism and flees to the commune, refusing to see him. Harry pursues her patiently over many years, living alone near her commune, and eventually winning her heart with a ‘gift’ of plantings of the type of tree that provides Barbara’s favourite honey (the Yellow Box Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus melliodora).

Bliss Movie Poster (1985)

Bliss (1985)

Directed by: Ray Lawrence
Starring: Barry Otto, Lynette Curran, Helen Jones, Gia Carides, Miles Buchanan, Jeff Truman, Tim Robertson, Kerry Walker, Saskia Post
Screenplay by: Ray Lawrence, Peter Carey
Cinematography by: Paul Murphy
Film Editing by: Wayne LeClos
Costume Design by: Helen Hooper
Art Direction by: Owen Paterson
Music by: Peter Best
Distributed by: Umbrella Entertainment
Release Date: October 4, 1985