February 18, 2009
Review - " Blindness " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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increasingly large group leadership through the repression of state confinement and a complete degeneration of law and
order within that confinement. The group moves from the hopelessness brought about by individual tyranny, to freedom
and the order that voluntary and symbiotic coexistence brings, even in an outside world where all familiar institutions,
including things as disparate as electricity and family - have ceased to exist. Perhaps it is because each individual in the
milieu is dealing with his or her own personal tragedy, that there is no place for collective uprising or protest outside of a
world where the ward defined the physical boundaries of groups of people. Blindness is about forms that society takes
when faced with crisis - the disorder that stems from individual hubris and inevitably leads to ruin, and the empathy and
coexistence that raises us above mere animals.
We all know how movie adaptations of great literature can be disappointing. But I wasn't prepared for the formal and
philosophical nada that is "Blindness" -- it could very well be entitled "Blandness" instead.
The "very independent production" has more than a share of compromises, including the terribly contrived Japanese
couple, who seem to belong to another film, and who are there to satisfy the Japanese co-producers and market. Or the
timid, squeezed-in "action" flashes (cars crashing, planes exploding) to satisfy "action" lovers. Worst of all, we know now
that Meirelles decided to re-cut the film six times since Cannes, after test audiences were "disgusted" with "graphic"
scenes. Now, how can you keep your vision (oops) trying to please everybody? Can't. The film never finds a tone,
wavering between the novel's apocalyptic, sarcastic allegory of society's prejudices, cruelty, ridicule and flawed power
systems, and clumsy attempts to insert sci-fi thriller touches and invest on "plot".
The problems are all around: the visual gimmicks soon get tiresome (the blurring "white blindness" ultimately drains the
film of all life, it takes away the visual as well as the emotional edge), music is abysmally bland, the film never finds a
compelling rhythm, alternating chopped scenes with unnecessary tedious passages (ie: the embarrassing "cute dog"
sequence). I found myself saying "Alright, get on with it already!". The art director nails the claustrophobic squalor of the
quarantine facility, but the garbage-filled streets often look suspiciously composed.
I thought that seeing how the marriage between the uninfected Julianne Moore and the infected Mark Ruffalo progressed
throughout the course of the film was quite interesting. Ruffalo gives a shatteringly devastating performance that kept me
intent on watching all the way through. Alice Braga is strong and sexy, but her character's complexities never surface,
especially the nature of her relationships with the young boy and the doctor. Maury Chaykin's repellent character is
underwritten and under-explored, and he turns to overacting for attention. Don McKellar's thief is an embarrassment and
Sandra Oh's cameo is a waste. The best performance comes from Gael García Bernal playing the amoral, jackass
opportunist, he makes the most unbelievable character (how about his rise to power? And gun? And ammo?) come to life.
Mostly though the actors seem lost (which I guess is the point of the whole blindness thing.)
"Blindness" is not all bad - it's just insipid and frustrating. Most frustrating of all has to be the ending. The entire film had
me sitting and waiting for the scene at the end when everyone suddenly sees again for no apparent reason, and there it
was slapping me right in the face like an idiot. Disease comes out of nowhere and infects people with no explanation,
society falls apart, disease ends and everyone is happy.
What looked like it could have been a visceral, original and extraordinarily acted story of human decay ended up being a
clichéd and relatively typical story of...well, human decay. The film takes far too long to really get going, with needless
scenes showing various people discovering that they have gone blind and then the final act drags on for what seemed like
an eternity. Ultimately, everything is just too obvious for me to be impressed and not wait for the next typical scene to
happen. Everyone starts to go blind, people don't understand, chaos ensues, more people are infected, they're
quarantined and treated poorly, madness breaks out within the quarantined, etc. It's like they just took out the pandemic
movie handbook, changed the disease to blindness and played out every step like they were just reading out of the book.
It was depressing, really.
In the end, I was reminded of "Children of Men", another
film which had great promise but ultimately disappointed.
At least that movie started out good. However, "Blindness"
just meandered around, and did so for a long, long time
You wont have to walk out but that isn't necessarily a good
thing. The nudity in this film was strangely appropriate for
this particular motion picture. It was used to emphasize the
squalid conditions rather than wet the salacious appetites
and as such the viewer will find the nakedness much more
disgusting than arousing.
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles
Starring: Jullianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Alice Braga, Maury
Chaykin, Gael García Bernal
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
If you have not read the novel by Jose Saramago (and I have not) it is difficult
to be prepared for a movie like Blindness. In a regular orderly urban society, a
man gets afflicted by a sudden attack of white blindness. So does his wife, and
all those who get in touch with him - notably an eye doctor. The doctor's wife is
the only one who miraculously escapes getting affected - and gives an