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Overall Rating
2.53

Awesome: 18.75%
Worth A Look: 21.88%
Just Average: 3.13%
Pretty Crappy: 6.25%
Sucks50%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings



Blindness (2008)
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by Mel Valentin

"This is the way the word ends, not with a bang, but with a...."
4 stars

The apocalypse doesn’t get any more literary than "Blindness," the decade-in-the-making adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author José Saramago's 1995 novel. Stylishly directed by Fernando Meirelles ("The Constant Gardener," "City of God") from Don McKellar’s ("The Red Violin," "Last Night") lean, linear script, "Blindness" is a fascinating, thought-provoking "Lord of the Flies"-style, "Day of the Triffids"-influenced allegory of social breakdown, exploitation, and survival. It’s also the kind of film that would make a dour, doom-obsessed pessimist pleased (“pleased” might be the wrong word here, but close enough) at the adaptation of Saramago’s novel.

In an unnamed city (actually Sao Paolo, Brazil, mixed in with Toronto, Canada and Montevideo, Uruguay), an epidemic of blindness, erupts when a man in a car (Yusuke Iseya) goes blind. Rather than “seeing” blackness, this new disease leaves the suffering seeing only whiteness (thus the literal nickname, the “white sickness”). The First Blind Man (per Saramago’s novel, characters are, like the city, unnamed) visits an Eye Doctor (Mark Ruffalo), who sees nothing wrong with the blind man’s eyes. At home, the Eye Doctor describes this new disease to his Wife (Julianne Moore). The next morning, the Doctor has lost his sight too, but his Wife seems immune to the disease. The disease spreads. Fearful government leaders decide to quarantine the afflicted in a disused mental asylum with the military guarding the periphery, with standing orders to shoot anyone who tries to escape.

The Doctor and his Wife are among the first to settle in Ward One. There they meet the First Blind Man, the First Blind Man’s Wife (Yoshino Kimura), the Woman with the Dark Glasses (Alice Braga), a young Boy (Mitchell Nye), the Thief (Don McKellar), and the Man with the Black Eye Patch (Danny Glover). With the Doctor as the de facto leader and his Wife helping in organizing the ward, the afflicted set up an informal society based on mutual cooperation. Others of the afflicted, however, decide on another form of government: monarchy. The self-appointed King of Ward Three (Gael García Bernal) finds a gun and grabs control of the food supply. The members of Wards One and Two are forced to trade in their possessions and sex for food.

Blindness, like most of Saramago’s output as a novelist, seemed like a difficult, if not impossible, task in adapting from Saramago’s sinuous, metaphor-rich prose to the peculiar demands of the cinema. One of Saramago’s greatest strengths as a novelist, his unique writing style, a style that often includes elusive, allusive tangents, seems ill suited for the cinema, where general moviegoers have little tolerance for tangents unrelated to story progression or character development. McKellar stripped Saramago’s prose to the essentials of story and character, but followed Saramago’s decision not to name the characters or give them significant backstories (everyone is defined by what they do and their relationships to each other).

Meirelles attempted to complement McKellar’s stripped-down screenplay with a desaturated style that reflects the newly blind characters’ experience with brilliant stabs of whiteness, usually from external light sources. While Meirelles and McKellar deserve credit for attempting to translate (and transfer) a seemingly unfilmable novel to the screen, their approach has its drawbacks: the sterile, antiseptic environment of the first scenes creates a sense of emotional detachment from the characters and their predicament. Even when the fragile social order inside the asylum has broken down with garbage and sewage dominating the environment, that detachment remains, partly, if not primarily due to the desaturated color palette that constantly reminds us that the world inside the film isn’t our own.

Adaptation and style issues aside, Blindness is an often searing, almost always disturbing critique of human nature, both outside the asylum through the government’s inept, incompetent response to the newly blind and a panicked citizenry and inside the asylum, as the order, a mirror or microcosm of the outside world, quickly deteriorates into a Hobbesian hell of all-against-all. Uplifting as Blindness rarely is (for that we have to wait until the last 15-20 minutes), its biggest problem is the Doctor’s Wife and her studied passivity in response to the King of Ward Three’s cruel, sadistic behavior.

Still, if you’re in the “mood” for an apocalyptic drama or happened to read Saramago’s novel and are eager to see it translated to the screen, then it’s hard to go wrong with "Blindness." Just be prepared for a film that’s as disturbing and unnerving as it is thought provoking and provocative. And if you’re a Julianne Moore fan (or a fan of any the actors in the cast), then you won’t be disappointed (there isn’t a bad performance in "Blindness").

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17271&reviewer=402
originally posted: 10/03/08 13:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/09/13 Martin Logistical mess. Plot inexplicably random. Some above average acting moments. Skip. 2 stars
8/07/13 mr.mike Tough to sit through but not bad. 4 stars
8/27/11 hurdygurdy man Luckily saw this on the tube, some ch surfing got me to the end...moneys on the anchovies! 2 stars
8/16/10 Simon Rather messy/impossible novel-film adapt, but directorially & allegorically lots to chew on 3 stars
12/31/09 Peter Worst movie ever 1 stars
10/18/09 auzzie chickie disturbing, sadistic and stomach turning. Not exactly one for the kids! 1 stars
11/16/08 City of God was excellent... ...but every Meirelles movie after that was horrible. 1 stars
10/25/08 PAUL SHORTT A RELENTLESS EYESORE - LIKE LOOKING INTO THE SKY AND HAVING SAND POURED INTO YOUR EYES 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Oct-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Oct-2008
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009




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