|2008 Canada, Brazil Blindness|
Blindness, the film, is based on the 1995 book Ensaio sobre a Cegueira. The book’s author, José de Sousa Saramago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998.
Ergo #1: it is a good book.
Saramago was reluctant to sell the book’s movie rights, fearing a film would do an injustice to his work, but eventually acquiesced (not to the highest bidder, mind you) because he felt this group, with Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles at the helm, understood his vision, and their proposed treatment captured the essence of his book.
Ergo #2: it’s a good movie.
Many a defense of the film has shouted “If you don’t like this movie, read the book and you will!” Stunning and incisive, that. I haven’t read the book so my reaction to Blindness, the film, is based on the sub par experience of merely watching the movie. Little things like the fact that not one actor in this film acted in such a way as to convince me that they might be blind should matter.
Blindness is a story about a society where everyone except the star goes blind. It focuses on a group that is quarantined in a well-lit, ahem, but over-crowded asylum. Conditions degrade very quickly and chaos ensues. It's horrific.
I went to see this film knowing nothing about it. I had seen the director’s earlier film City of God and thought it was magnificent. I liked the movie poster and I’m a big Julianne Moore fan. She’s very good in the film. She's the only one who is not blind and at one point, while showering in a room full of blind people, she is the first and only one to hear the faint sounds of a radio being played in another room. That’s good acting! It would be wrong to object to the unlikelihood of this by invoking the prejudice that blind people develop a heightened sense of hearing, the same bigotry that doesn’t know blind people walk around naked and shit on the floor—like they do in this faithful filmic adaptation of a book.
The Blindness in this film, however, is a special Blindness. Everything doesn’t go black, it goes white. It’s an allegory. The director attempts to recreate this experience for the viewing audience by washing out the film to a milky white blur which is fine in concept but its execution seems entirely random—to the point of directorial conceit. Like when the husband and the hooker, who share a bond the husband can't enjoy with his wife (she's not blind), are having sex, we watch them through the milky white blur. Why? Because it’s the European thing to do. There will be gratuitous sex and the wife will understand.
Before the big gang rape scene, there is a scene where the really bad guy, the guy who conveniently found a loaded weapon and proclaimed himself “King”, is barking orders at everyone. Julianne’s character heckles him and he snaps “I will never forget your voice” while pointing the gun at her. Blind people have an acute sense of hearing and can do that. But just before Julianne sucks his dick in the big rape scene, she talks to him face to face and he seems to have forgotten the sound of her voice. If it seems confusing as to why Julianne’s character would go through the humiliation of all the women being raped, one fatally, before using her meager advantage of sight to kill this guy, remember, rape is the only reason a woman will kill. Anything less than that, up to and including the mere threat of rape at gunpoint, and she will just suffer.
And you should too. Pay no attention to the improbabilities, the bad acting, the cringe worthy dialog, the pompous and misogynist screenplay and direction, or the ridiculously campy 360 which results in a profound and happy ending. The film is an allegory based on a novel. It’s very trés trés. Fork out your ten bux and enjoy this piece of filth. It’s the sophisticated thing to do.
I've never felt so embarrassed for an entire cast of a film before. Implausibly scripted and pompously directed, Blindness might be the result of watching this movie, not its (metaphorical?) theme. The filth and desperation captured so well in City of God are manufactured for display here as ends in themselves. This film is an insult to its viewers and, I fear, a real revelation about its maker.
Summary: A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant "white blindness". Those first afflicted are quarantined by the authorities in an abandoned mental hospital where the newly created "society of the blind" quickly breaks down. Criminals and the physically powerful prey upon the weak, hording the meager food rations and committing horrific acts. There is however one eyewitness to the nightmare. A woman whose sight is unaffected by the plague follows her afflicted husband to quarantine. There, keeping her sight a secret, she guides seven strangers who have become, in essence, a family. She leads them out of quarantine and onto the ravaged streets of the city, which has seen all vestiges of civilization crumble. Their voyage is fraught with danger, yet their survival and ultimate redemption reflect the tenacity and depth of the human spirit.