Let me get this out of the way first...the fact that I didn't appreciate "Blindness" is not an indicator that somehow I just didn't "get it."
I got it.
I don't want it.
Directed by Fernando Meirelles ("City of God"), "Blindness" is easily 2008's most pretentious film...no small feat given that 2008 has also given us "The Happening" from M. Night Shyamalan.
Actually, "Blindness" looks and feels like a film M. Night would direct, had M. Night lost his balls in a tragic cinematic accident a couple films back.
"Blindness" is a slickly constructed film that wants desperately to be an important, apocalyptic tour-de-force. Those familiar with Nobel Prize winning author Jose' Saramago's novel, however, will vacillate between being appalled and the sheer ineptness of this cinematic production in bringing Saramago's grim, futuristic vision to life.
The film evolves around an unnamed city that experiences what becomes known as the "white sickness," individuals suddenly going blind but experience whiteness rather than blackness. Mark Ruffalo starts as a physician who is afflicted with the illness after examining the first victim, while Julianne Moore plays his wife...a woman who is inexplicably not stricken with it but who fakes it so she can join her husband at what is essentially a concentration camp for those afflicted.
Before long, utter chaos reigns and one violent rebel begins exacting from the females payment of the most violent kind in exchange for such simplicities as food. These scenes, which are unfathomably stark and relentless in the novel, are softened for cinematic portrayal in much the way Patrick Bateman was softened in the movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho."
Saramago resisted for years the idea of a film based upon his novel, and it appears he was correct in doing so. While Meirelles' previous cinematic work has been bold and visionary, "Blindness" often feels blunted and, well, lacking in vision. The film is salvaged almost solely upon the strength of Julianne Moore's harrowing performance as the woman who, unknown to those around her, can actually see the disintegration of society.
Meirelles gives the film a sort of milky aura, an effect that serves to mimic the experience of those onscreen while also reinforcing the colorless world in which they find themselves living. Along with Moore, Alice Braga ("Babel") does a nice job as the wife of the first man to go blind. In an underdeveloped role, Danny Glover has a few moments to shine as an older man who discovers truths about love.
It's easy to gather why everyone here signed on for "Blindness." The source material from Saramago is quite brilliant, and Meirelles has a stellar history for visual imagery and stark truth. Unfortunately, Saramago's vision simply never comes to life and Meirelles only sporadically creates moments of greatness that are too often surrounded by pretentious mediocrity.
Sadly, "Blindness" lacks the most essential ingredient of all...vision.
by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic