When an actor signs themselves over to a director like Fernando Meirelles, who made the exquisite City of God and the far less interesting The Constant Gardener, they are giving their trust to this director’s vision. Hoping that in the end there will be meaning in the images and breadth given to the performances. The actor, while having the whole arch of their character in mind, has to focus down on each and every moment and trust the director to put those moments together as a whole. Unfortunately Meirelles’s take on the award winning book Blindness, is simply ridiculous.
I would call it a melodrama, but it isn’t, it’s more like a Soap Opera, as situations become dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. A virus that leaves its victims blind, seeing a washed out white landscape instead of darkness, randomly infects a Japanese business man, and quickly spreads to the people he comes in contact with. Mark Ruffalo, simply called the Doctor treats the Japanese business man, and just can’t put his finger on the cause of the the sudden blindness. Maybe it’s psychological he pontificates to his wife, Julianne Moore, simply called the Doctor’s Wife. Like The Happening earlier this year, there’s no reason given for the sudden attack on humanity, which would be fine if the film’s messages and themes weren’t overtly obvious at some points and so convoluted at other points, and if the film was a bit more intelligent with it’s representation of what happens to blind people.
In Blindness it would seem that losing your sight means losing your sense of reason and grasp of morals and the consequences of breaking them. It gives everyone in this film an excuse to enact their worst behaviors and desires. Like an emotionally cheap version of Lord of the Flies…which is about kids taking advantage of there being no adults to enforce rules…the adults are put into quarantine, Moore lies and says she’s blind so she can go along. The infected break off into sections, and of course there’s one “bad” section…and they have, a gun! Let me tell you there’s nothing less frightening than a blind man with a gun that fires six bullets (though in this movie it seems to fire about 80!) But everyone gives into this rapscallion, played with a ball of nerves and fear by Gael Garcia Bernal. Even the one person that can see, who could sneak up on him at any moment, goes along with all of his wishes, until the consequences are so great that she finally decides to do something. It’s ri-dic-u-lous.
There’s at least five shots in the movie of a lone person wandering through a street waving their hands in the air because they can’t see, while a single car has to swerve out of the way. Blind people don’t become stupid. They retain sense memory. If a person that can see is walking down the sidewalk, becomes blind then steps off the curb, they are going to realize that they’ve stepped off the curb and reason will take over and tell them they are in the street, that it’s dangerous, and to step back the way they just came…not to keep walking into the street waving their arms around.
Blind people also do not become zombies and wander the streets looking for food, they do not turn a city into a post apocalyptic landscape out of a disaster movie with bridges that have been decimated, nor do they forget how to speak. There’s a hilarious moment in the last 15 minutes of the film in which Moore is leading people through a zombie-like city (see the image above), each one holding hands with the person behind them…suddenly one at the end loses the hand of the person in front of them, he reaches out, can’t find it and wanders off by himself… what??? He can still speak! “Hey, where are you guys? Give me your hand! Slow down a second!” They stop wandering and the good Doctor’s Wife makes a comment, “…before we lose anyone else.” She can see! Wasn’t she watching!? The movie is full of ridiculous things like this. At one point Moore is trying to escape with some food at a run down grocery store and at that moment all of the blind people suddenly know she has food. They’re blind!They can’t see her! It’s really insulting to the audience members. I think one of the blind people actually says “I can smell meat.” Just after another one says, “What does she have?” How can they tell its a she? And, I’m sorry but smelling packaged meat is really tough.
That’s just one of my complaints, that everyone becomes an idiot when they’re blind. My other is with people that don’t become blind. Yes, everyone would become scared, but scared enough to quarantine all the infected and then shoot anyone that came near them. Really???
And what does it all mean? Our society is blind to the way we treat each other? There’s some “thematic” conversation at the front of the movie that suggests that. But at the end Danny Glover says he’d rather be blind so that people look beyond skin color…so is the movie telling us it’s better to be blind or worse?
Sure Meirelles finds some interesting visual motifs to disorient the viewer and what they’re seeing, there are also some cool use of special effects…making something slowly appear on screen and finally pop into existence when a blind person runs into it. Alas, my movie buddy and I couldn’t stop giggling as every time something emotionally profound happened, a blind person would then bump into something. We get it, they’re blind…we’re not.