Blindness
Directed by Fernando Meirelles

Written by Don McKellar from the novel by Jose Saramago

Starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo

 

Blindness

A man is driving to work; at a stop light he finds he's losing his sight. Not a black blindness but a totally white world. Another man comes along, drives him home and then steals his car. The man's wife finds an opthalmologist, takes him there, the doctor cannot find anything wrong with his eyes, but by the next day both the doctor and everyone in the waiting room is also blind. The epidemic of blindness quickly spreads around the world, and those who have it are quarantined by the authorities.

That's the premise of the new film "Blindness," which comes from a novel by the Portuguese Nobel laureate Josť Saramago, written for the screen by the Canadian actor and director Don McKellar, and directed by Fernando Meirelles, who made "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener." Not only that, the film stars Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo as the doctor and his wife, with supporting performances by, among others, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal.

For some reason, Julianne Moore does not lose her sight, but she comes with her husband to live in the quarantined facility. There are armed guards around the facility, an old mental hospital, who shoot any of the blind people who try to leave, and then one of them, in Ward 3, declares himself King of the wards, and with a gun and a couple of accomplices gains control of the food that's brought in, trading the meals first for everyone's jewelry, and then demanding that each ward give him their women to be raped by his men.

As I watched the film I thought that "Blindness" was an allegory of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, with all the survivors in the Superdome making their own society as a way of surviving. Obviously that wasn't in Saramago's mind when he wrote his novel, but surely it was in the screenwriter and director's minds. As compelling as it was, there were some problems for me. Mark Ruffalo played his gelded man once again. Most of the supporting actors had little to do; they were more cameos than real people. Only Julianne Moore, who I think can do anything on screen, came across as a wholly realized person; everyone else was given a characterization instead of a personality.

One strange note that I found by looking up the filming locations of "Blindness" on IMDb: the film goes from Toronto - the new downtown where we see the initial episodes - to the 19-century buildings of Montevideo, Uruguay. There's no explanation, but it seemed jarring to me. I'm obviously not going to give away the ending here; I get too many angry emails for that; but I think you'll figure it out for yourselves before too long.

10/3/08