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4 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Blindness (2008)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Don't close your eyes to it."
5 stars

In José Saramago’s 1995 novel "Blindness," a woman who is being raped turns her head and vomits, and nobody else in the crowded room — seven other women are being raped, too — notices, because the room already stinks worse than the vomit.

This is one of the more savage sequences in the middle of the book, an allegory about citizens abruptly, inexplicably struck blind; they are quarantined in an abandoned hospital, and many of them rapidly slide into inhumanity and foulness, while a scattered few struggle to uphold some measure of compassion and dignity. Saramago’s lengthy sentences roll out on endless train-tracks of commas, giving the story a godlike matter-of-factness: whether ugly or otherwise, events cannot be stopped.

The much-maligned film version, whose script (by Don McKellar, who also plays a car thief) sticks very close to the novel, is a grim though not unbearably explicit piece of work. Of the rapes, for instance, we see blessedly little, though we hear the helpless cries and bestial grunts. Director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) cloaks things in darkness or washes out the frame to reflect the nature of the “white sickness” — the characters’ vision doesn’t go black, it goes milky white. Only one person, the wife (Julianne Moore, excellent in a role that finally gives her something meaty to play again) of an opthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo), has retained her sight; she accompanies him to quarantine, claiming she, too, has gone blind.

In one ward of the hospital is this ordinary woman, forced by circumstance to use her sighted advantage for good; in another ward, lorded over by Gael García Bernal as an amoral thug, is a man blind from birth (Maury Chaykin) who uses his advantage — among the newly blind, he at least knows how to negotiate lack of sight — for evil. It’s Mother Abagail and Randall Flagg all over again, and those allergic to allegory should probably steer clear of Blindness. We’re not meant to probe the plot literally, or to be discomfited that the heroine is a rich white woman and the chief villain is a scummy little Hispanic bartender (an eventuality of Hollywood casting, and it enables a richly depraved performance from García Bernal).

Blindness isn’t the pointless wallow its detractors would have you believe. It has a stark beauty, even when focusing on hallways festooned with human waste. That a film this disquieting and uncompromisingly depressive somehow got a 1,600-screen release in America is a little astounding. Meirelles and McKellar, loyal caretakers of Saramago’s vision, have delivered it with integrity and even a certain grace, and the cast (including Alice Braga as a prostitute and Danny Glover as the archetypical Wise Old Man) give it their all.

The adventurous should give the movie — and absolutely the book — a shot; both are art disguised as horror, or perhaps vice versa. But if it’s not your thing, I’m not about to tell you it should be.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17271&reviewer=416
originally posted: 10/05/08 21:26:10
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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
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  03-Oct-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2009


  DVD: 10-Feb-2009

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