Blindness Movie Review
One of my most anticipated movies of the fall, Blindness is from director Fernando Meirelles, best known for City of God and The Constant Gardener. A man with amazing vision and the ability to create absolutely beautiful and deep pieces of work, I had high hopes for the apocalyptic picture. Unfortunately, the movie didn't quite hit the mark.
Blindness stars Julianne Moore as a woman who wakes up one morning to find that her husband (Mark Ruffalo) has been infected by a patient and can no longer see. As they quickly discover, the disease has become an epidemic and spread through the country. The government acts quickly and decides to quarantine the unfathomable illness by putting its victims in an old asylum. Strangely, the government decides not to put any of its employees in harm's way, and instead leaves these blind people to fend for themselves. As the asylum's inhabitants expand in numbers, the place turns into a crap-infested boiling pot, as the various wards turn against one another to horde food. The fall from innocence is swift, creating a dangerous situation where no one can be trusted. However, there is one variable few of them know: that the doctor's wife (Moore) can still see.
The picture is a disturbing one, as Meirelles doesn't shy away from showing the people's desperation and misery (shit, literally, is everywhere, people wander around naked, etc.). The asylum turns into a breeding ground for rape, corruption and murder. While there are good people, there are bad people, too.
The movie, based on the novel by José Saramago, explores some interesting issues, and also introduces a series of imaginative events. However, there is something about the picture that I just didn't buy. It's hard to pinpoint, but my general reaction is that the development of events happens too suddenly. The government throws the afflicted into a building and then just ignores them, with no interest in solving the problem or helping them? It just didn't make much sense. The movie needed another twenty minutes tacked on to the beginning to develop the characters and circumstances; as is, things felt rushed and unrealistic.
As things developed, I still wasn't totally engaged in the picture. While I could certainly fathom things crumbling at the seams, the blind people seem overly helpless; a little more focus on the things that the people do to accommodate themselves would have helped me connect with the characters, because as is they came off as cowardly and pathetic. When the Third Ward begins charging for food - and then start demanding women in exchange for food - the other wards just seem to shrug and give in. Perhaps the idea was to relay a sense of hopelessness, but I didn't buy it.
Unfortunately, Meirelles' beautiful cinematography is all but missing from the picture. The director takes the film's title way too literally, as the movie often doesn't look that good. Furthermore, the picture seems to be intentionally edited in a fragmented way, leaving us to connect the pieces. Blindness seems to have been made by an entirely different director. Furthermore, I wouldn't say the acting is anything to scream about; while not bad, none of the actors stand out in any way or form; even Gael García Bernal, who has a surprisingly small role, doesn't make an impact.
Nevertheless, complaints aside, Blindness is a dark and disturbing trip into an apocalyptic world that works if you let it. The final third of the film is particularly mesmerizing, despite lacking the same focus and intensity as the rest of the picture. Had Meirelles added another 20 to 30 minutes to the picture, it could have been a truly effective epic; instead, it's just a decent look at a what-if situation.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.