Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Blindness

 

Review by Matt Starr

Blindness marks the beginning of the awards season, although the film is far from award-worthy. When a film with the potential of Blindness is released in September (or very early October), it is done so for a reason. Producers and distributors have decided that it isn’t worthy to compete with the likes of the November and December films, and in most cases they are correct.

Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) is the director of this film, which is not nearly as impressive as his aforementioned works. Meirelles brings the same visual flair and potent cinematography to Blindness as well as laudable performances from his actors, but what holds the film back is the messy plot structure and lack of focus.

The story is based on the acclaimed novel by Jose Saramago.  It is always difficult to adapt such novels to the big screen, although it certainly is possible; the Coen brothers were able to effectively translate Cormac McCarthy’s allegorical story No Country For Old Men to film without confusing the audience or making a long drawn out production. While some of Saramago’s themes and allegories are apparent in the film, it is hard for the audience to ever consider them because of the pacing and lack of depth in the characters.

None of the characters are given names in the film. Mark Ruffalo is known simply as Doctor and Julianne Moore as Doctor’s Wife. The setting that they are placed in is fictional as well, a plot contrivance that may have worked in the novel, but in a two-hour film, details such as these usually help to connect us to the characters. True, Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club was called “Narrator” but no single character in Blindness has anywhere close to the depth and importance of Norton’s character in that film.

The film begins with a man driving in traffic and all of a sudden becoming blind. He stops his car and all he can see is a bright white light. Eventually he goes to see his eye doctor (Ruffalo) only to find out that there is nothing physically wrong with his eyes. The next morning, “Doctor” is afflicted with the same disease and it continues to spread around the area. Eventually the government rounds up the afflicted and literally dumps them all into an abandoned mental ward.

Julianne Moore decides to remain with her husband and everyone else in the ward and becomes a leader as she keeps her sight throughout. Saramago is definitely illustrating that his hope for the improvement of society and evolution of humanity is invested in women. Unfortunately this theme is very muddled here.  The fact that I am not going to discuss the characters of Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal should highlight that this is the type of film that looks for events to get their characters to move forward within the story as opposed to letting the characters push the story themselves.

I attended a screening set up by Variety with Meirelles, Ruffalo, Glover and screenwriter/actor Don McKellar. At one point during the Q & A session, Meirelles jokingly brought up the ironic point that when Blindness was screened in Cannes, a review was written from Variety suggesting the movie should have never been made. While I won’t go so far as to agree with that suggestion, I will say that the movie should have been made in an entirely different manner and strategy.

2 ½ / 5 stars

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