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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
An adaptation of the allegorical eponymous novel by Jose Saramago. It tells the story of a group of people who are confined in an old abandoned asylum by the Government after the spread of a global pandemic of a strange contagious white blindness.
The movie follows well the book story, but completely forgets the human and social critique, and the philosophical and political questions embedded in it. In fact, the original title of the book is Essay on Blindness, and it is part of a series of philosophical-literary essays on different themes related to humanity, social and political structures. In other words, the soul and insight of the book are lost in translation.
The book is confronting, shocking and much harder and darker than the movie. The movie is a succession of weird shocking events that have no point, a confrontation between good and evil in an apocalyptic world... Wrong and simplistic. This is so because the scriptwriter and the director missed the most important elements of the book, or, simply, thought that the viewer would not want or understand more complexity.
Part of my disappointment has to do with the acting. Most of the actors are uninspired and badly directed, and some of them miscast. I did not believe them at all in their roles, especially Ruffalo and Moore, who seem not to believe the roles they are playing or the circumstances in which they are placed. I found stereotypical and offensive the use a Hispanic -played by Gael Garcia Bernal- as the bad guy; I mean, that's typical of mainstream stupid Hollywood movies, and it was not in Saramago's book.
It is great that we can experience the white textured involving blindness that the characters suffer, which is beautifully portrayed in the movie. However, there is too much clarity and whiteness in the movie, which is overwhelmingly white and on-purpose blinding, so we, the viewers, become a little blind too. I did not thing that was necessary. I think the director could have shown the white blindness from the point of view of the people getting blind, so the viewer can imagine what it is like, and then make the movie darker and moodier. The viewer is going to watch the movie, but cannot be part of it.
Miralles shows his savoir-faire in some of the most difficult scenes, the ones involving the women going to ward 3, shot with great sensitivity (they are raw and disturbing in the book), more suggesting than showing, creating and atmosphere that shows the drama but not the raw facts. It works perfectly. I also found great the depiction of the desolated city, the chaos and dirtiness the city -unnamed- is reduced to, and the life of the gangs of blind people and dogs in the streets. The music is beautiful -a mix of ethereal, quirky, strange and delicate elements- and serves the story very well. To add another positive element, Saramago's book is not easy to read, among other things, because of his literary style, so the movie is an easier approach to the story and it is still interesting.
Saramago, who never agreed to sell the rights of any of his books to any film producer, did so in this case and after a long negotiation. Miralles directed the movie always having Saramago in mind, and what he would think about his cinematographic options while adapting the novel. Saramago attended, side by side with Miralles, the premier of the movie. A video in Youtube (watch?v=7XzBkM_LdAk), shows the end of the movie, in which Saramago is visibly moved, and says that he feels as happy at watching the movie as he did when he finished his book. Well, as a reader, I can't disagree more.
The movie has bad reviews in general and, in this case, I think they are deserved. To me, is the lack of depth and soul, the mediocre acting and the poor direction in major subjects ruins the interesting premises and storyline. Not all viewers are morons, and it is up to the director to direct and edit the movie, and lead the actors to the point in which they become the characters they are playing. Don't expect the viewer to fill the gaps and inconsistencies of any movie and make an essay on blindness from a bunch of apocalyptic events.
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