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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, hoarding 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. Written by
Festival de Cannes' Editor
Perhaps a bit too laboured and bleak but well shot and grippingly depressing in the detail and sweep of the story
Blindness managed to slip past me without me even noticing it when it came out recently and when it was selected by others to be my Saturday night viewing in favour of another film (which was "not really a Saturday night thing") I assumed that Blindness must be a thriller/horror where disease threatens mankind. I figured I knew where it would go and what it would do - I was wrong. The film opens with the first man going blind and causing traffic problems and introduces us, via him, to an eye-doctor and his suburban, cheerfully comfortable wife. When he goes blind, he is collected by the military and taken into quarantine along with his wife, who pretends to have gone blind. From here we find inside the camp, shut off from the rest of the world and the various wards go quickly from a handful of people up to the place filled to capacity.
The meaning is obvious as our focus on this world is very much meant to be a microcosm of the rest of the world and a look at what happens to day-to-day humanity and morals when the senses of society and control are stripped away. It is no surprise that the only way is down from this point and the film shows us "humanity" stripped away to be replaced by mob rule, self-interest, exploitation, murder, rape and so on - it is a brutal and unrelenting experience but one that is, sadly, quite convincing. This makes up the vast majority of the film and it is hard going. In terms of message there is only one point but it is not one that is made and then moved on from, but rather a descent that has to be experienced and it is here that the film works really well. The downwards spiral is gripping even though the feel of the film is one of a quiet, slow pace.
In a reverse of most films like this, Blindness starts with a tight focus and saves the bigger picture for the end. I liked this approach because it allowed me to get caught up in the smaller group without worrying too much about the rest of the world, only to show me later doing it the other way makes for a good opening but then also feels a bit of a step backwards to then focus on a small group. The effects of the wider world are impressive even if they are quite as convincing as the despair we had just witnessed inside the camp, but personally I found the visual delivery within the camp to be of much more interest. Here we have some great cinematography which helps to make the film feel fresh and engaging as it prevents the viewer sitting back and watching from afar but rather makes our eyes part of the presentation rather than a passive part of it. The visual style is particularly important in some of the harder scenes as we are not actually shown that much but simply left to squirm as we see enough to make the rest happen in our heads. It is not unfair to say that the visual style does rather cover some weaknesses in the material by aiding the sense of engagement with the viewer.
The cast are mixed because of the material but mostly are good. Moore is impressive with an unlikely character who doesn't totally make logical sense but who doesn't allow you to think about that too much. The change in her character is well done and she does well as, literally, our eyes in the film. Ruffalo is perhaps less striking as a performance because he does his character well his character being weaker and more liberal within the context that changes Moore so much. Braga is also good in her part and fits in well with smaller turns from Bernal and several others who I did not know. Ironically I found two of the more famous faces to be distracting. I didn't see the point of Sandra Oh being here but she is not as distracting as Danny Glover, although this is not really his fault. His material has interest and his performance is OK but he is almost an afterthought and doesn't fit in with the rest of the film, ending up as more of a distraction than anything else.
Blindness is far from a fun experience and I can understand why some have hated it. Nor is it a brilliantly complex film, since it is essentially a journey into one point, with other threads not really that well done (Glover's stuff in particular). However it is intense and engaging with a great visual style to it. Watch it as an experience and, when choosing who you see it with, please bear in mind that it is a grim and uncomfortable affair throughout.
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