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Blindness Movie Review

Blindness: To See, a Brutal Gift

I saw Blindness by myself, with nothing to occupy me on the way home but a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Bad idea. This movie requires a funny friend or mindless magazine afterward to decompress. I don't shy away from depressing films, but Blindness is one of the bleakest things I've ever seen on screen. At times bleaker even than Babel or Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. But cheery isn't really an option when portraying a dystopia plagued by a mysterious epidemic "immune to bureaucracy."

Based on the novel by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago and directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardner), this apocalyptic allegory is imperfect but powerful. Reminiscent of Children of Men and old zombie flicks, Blindness begins with a man going blind while driving. His eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo) is puzzled by the affliction, in which eyesight is obscured by white rather than cloaked in dark. But soon the doctor is also rendered blind by the contagion, so


To prevent an epidemic, the blind are quarantined — first by the handful then by the hundreds — in an abandoned sanitarium. Apart from the viewers, the only person who can see what filth results when a bunch of newly blind people are essentially abandoned by their government is the doctor's wife (Julianne Moore), who retains her sight but keeps it a secret. As food rations become scarce and the conditions more squalid, the ward devolves into a sinister, Lord of the Flies-like atmosphere ruled by an opportunistic villain (Gael Garcia Bernal).

Painted in a washed-out palette, the horror is heightened by the fact that as viewers, we're prevented from getting our bearings. Some of the techniques are predictable but effective — interludes of white between scenes, an overall jumbled tone — while others are downright arresting. We never learn the characters' names, and the nameless setting — shot in Sao Paolo, Tokyo, and Toronto — is beautiful and disorienting.

But Meirelles also draws attention to our sightedness by making us witness some sickeningly ugly truths — actions that you can imagine unfolding in such a dystopia but that are very difficult to watch nonetheless. (The people next to me walked out during a particularly disturbing scene.) The horrors are not without a message — to me, how hunger and suffering can drive people to immoral ends — but I certainly didn't leave the theater feeling good. Though I haven't read Saramago's novel, I'd imagine that message of Blindness is better made through literary allegory than a hyperrealistic film. But depending on your movie tolerance, Blindness is worth seeing for both its beauty and its brutality.

Photos courtesy of Miramax

Join The Conversation
Mel14694648 Mel14694648 8 years
They shot scenes in Montevideo, Uruguay, where I live :)
benbenbenben benbenbenben 8 years
thought provoking film, i really enjoyed this one. Does anybody know the name of the song that played on the radio that Danny Glovers character ( the one eyed man) had in the quarantine area
yummymango yummymango 8 years
Rotten Tomatoes didn't give this a good review, but the trailer just seemed so compelling to me. I've never read the actual book, so I have nothing to compare with. But I have to say that the movie was pretty good. It showed the worst (and best) of human nature, and the fact that the movie was filmed in an overexposure-type style helped with the gritty-ness and overall theme of seeing... if that makes sense...
figurine figurine 8 years
I can't imagine that the film captures the novel's greatness. The cast seems so random, but of course I'll check the movie out sooner or later.
scissorz scissorz 8 years
i never actually finished this book. i started it and liked it, but for some reason i just never finished it. i should
nimue nimue 8 years
ohhh i wanted to see this since the trailer, i think your review increases my desire to see it
lexichloe lexichloe 8 years
Nice review. Makes me want to go see it even more.
Mel247 Mel247 8 years
I have quite a low tolerance for disturbing scenes in films, but I saw this film not knowing much about it. The last sentence of this review sums it up fully, there's beauty and brutality. The scene did almost make me sick but it was so raw and intense and what I imagine would be realistic under those conditions that I appreciated it being there. It reminded me a lot of Children of Men and if you enjoyed that I believe you will enjoy this film. I've never seen a film like this and I definitely recommend it.
Phil Phil 8 years
Don't be phased by people walking out. Tons of people walked out for Meirelles' City of God, and, unless you're especially sensitive to violence, there's no denying how powerful that movie was.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i had such hopes for this movie since i heard a lot about it but i'm not sure now that i've gotten a bit more of a look (sorry for the pun) at it. i wonder if it's still checking out even though it doesn't seem like it has a lot of sense to it in movie form.
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 8 years
I've heard mixed reviews of this movie but it's one of my favorite books so I can't wait to see it!
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I thought this looked really good (although not necessarily in a fun night at the movies type of way), but I'm a little scared to see it knowing that people were actually walking out. Maybe it's one of those movies I'd be better waiting for on video so that I can cringe and cover my eyes and fast forward without bugging anyone else.
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