Blindness has enjoyed a wide release for one day now, and already, the naysayers are complaining. ‘Why should we watch something so sad?’ ‘What’s redeeming about a film that makes me think?’ Blindness isn’t as noble as the book it’s based on, but should be seen, nonetheless. For those that rely on the cinema solely for escapism, avoid this film, stick to romantic comedies. But those of the opinion that film should address the human condition, no matter how bleak, watch Blindness.
The basis of the story is that an epidemic of blindness triggers the downfall of a mysteriously international city without a name. In fact, names aren’t used at all in the plot, as the blind can find no use for them. The main characters are quarantined in an abandoned mental hospital. After just a few days of unassisted living, the hospital turns into an enormous port-a-potty, trash, and dirty everywhere, unable to clean after themselves. The small societal structure, and the humans in that structure, within the hospital quickly deteriorates as the lack of necessities drive them to extreme measures. The circumstances are horrifying, and it is certainly a scene that is difficult to watch thanks to the skills of director Fernando Meirelles.
Oscar nominated director Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardner) brings us this adaptation of the book by the same name, written by Nobel Prize-winning author, Jose Saramago. The cinematography is beautiful , thanks to the knowing hand of Cesar Charlone (City of God, Sucker Free City). The shots Meirelles and Charlone manage to capture, perfectly framed in their lens are stunning. They could belong to an intense, but intriguing coffee table book. They masterfully manipulate light, darkness (playing on the theme of the White Blindness), focus and shadows to create a haunting world that you believe can exist. Meirelles commanded quite the performance of Julianne Moore playing ‘Doctor’s Wife,’ who shouldered the burden of carrying the plot through most of the movie.
While the film is certainly beautiful to look at, and there are scenes that aggressively move the audience to feel at least something, the pacing and plot leave much to be desired. Some of the central acts that should have been the most poignant, lack power. It’s like the story was stretching too hard to try and be more than it is. Some of the more dramatic elements were harped on the length of the film, leaving an unpleasant impression on the viewer. What could have been a affecting, and poignant cautionary tale, ended up being an extremely beautiful, philosophically appealing, but nonetheless, unbalanced, and uneven story that’s not quite sure where it fits between the art, and thriller genres.
Rated R for violence including sexual assaults, language and sexuality/nudity.