Studio: Miramax Films
US Rating: Rated R for Violence Including Sexual Assaults, Language and Sexuality/Nudity.
Film Length: 121 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Review Date: February 1, 2009
The Film - out of
How rare it is to find a film that is willing to take an idea with such grand scale spectacle potential and strip away the predictable trappings and focus upon just the very intimate and personally dramatic plights.
Blindness begins with a man sitting behind the wheel of his car who is stunned by the sudden onset of blindness. Disoriented, distraught – he is taken home by a stranger and when his wife returns home, taken to a specialist. But his condition is baffling and he is sent to the hospital for more tests. But his condition is contagious and soon those he came into contact with; the man who drove him home, his wife, the eye specialist, those at the hospital, all begin to suffer the same abrupt affliction. The blindness spreads without warning, cause or cure; panic sets in and those with the so called ‘white sickness’ are hauled away and quarantined without hands on care or assistance. Only one person can still see – the wife of the eye specialist. She has feigned blindness in order to be able to stay with her husband. The epidemic spreads, the wards fill up with more and more newly blinded citizens and the fist of law and fear quickly work to oppress the sufferers in an attempt to preserve society at large.
Director Fernando Meirelles, acclaimed director of The Constant Gardner brings José Saramango’s Nobel Prize winning novel to film and delivers one of the most thought provoking, challenging and absorbing films in years. His directorial style is well suited to the material – moving the camera outside of traditional framing, using high exposure of the whites in the frame and pulling the camera into and out of focus to take us into the disconcerting and powerlessness of this form of blindness. And he directs a terrific cast in solid performances. Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore portray husband and wife, with Ruffalo (known only as the Doctor), the eye specialist afflicted after contact with the first known case and Moore, known only as the burdened wife of the doctor who hides the fact that she can see but suffers what seems like a worse fate by having sight. They are both superb with Moore giving a great performance of strength, lumbered with the weight of extraordinary circumstances. She is an actress of brooding power which shines through the gritty fate of her isolation with the blinded in this film. Ruffalo’s calm acting style suits his character well as he plays a man required to accept the debilitating blindness and remain somewhat clinical in his response. But as time passes, his reliance on his wife eats at his sense of worth – a journey which Ruffalo he handles well.
Others in the cast include Alice Braga as ‘the women with the dark glasses’, Danny Glover as ‘the man with the black eye-patch’ and Gael Garcia Bernal as ‘king of ward three’ – each dealing with their loss of sight in different ways. Danny Glover’s character for example seems to embrace it with wisdom and appreciates the sense of family that comes is born from it. While Bernal’s cracks and falls to the lowest form of humanity’s potential.
Blindness presents a fascinating prospect; a catastrophic event told with independent filmmaking sensibilities. Not M. Night Shyamalan’s type of narrower focus in thrillers, but an even tighter focus still, deeper into the moment by moment lives of those people around which the story is centered. And the story is unrelenting at times with the brutality that spreads under the tense and terrifying conditions. It is an unusual film that seems more an experience that takes you inside the blindness affliction while detailing small challenges of becoming sightless – all set inside the challenges of having civil liberties suspended in a knee-jerk, panic reaction by those in ‘power’, fearing the burgeoning epidemic. We witness degrading humanity as the wards established to quarantine the blind fill beyond capacity, sink into inhuman conditions and from them emerges a territorial perversion of Darwinian principles. A state where the unprincipled, frightened few in power exert their force, disbanding social morality and igniting the survival instinct in those they seek to exploit.
The film becomes an examination of human weakness, human tolerance – the possibility of depravity, pettiness, desperation and heroism in unpredictable ways – all under the guise of an unassuming science-fiction plot.
Blindness is at times extraordinary, with riveting performances and a captivating and unnerving style that places us into the same sense of uncertainty that those dealing with the total loss of sight must feel.
Miramax presents Blindness in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions. It relies heavily on the color white to represent the sight impairment and dark, shadowy scenes in the wards to represent the decay of normality - both are strong. The whites in particular are clean and even glow, appearing without noise or any other problems. The darker scenes provide some good contrast, with silhouettes and include rich black levels. Film grain is solid throughout which is great to see. It isn’t always the sharpest of images and finer details can be lost – but Director Meirelles drifts the image into and out of focus at times, so it feels right for the film. This is all coupled with César Charlone’s daring cinematography, providing for quite the sight to see.
In the absence of one sense, the other senses will improve as a consequence. Here, we get a not only a great image quality but also a brilliant audio performance with a very active Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option. The score by Marco Antônio Guimarães (performed by Uakti) pings and tinkers throughout the speakers and becomes a natural part of the films excellent sound design. The subwoofer rattles and rumbles with emotional cues as much as action ones and the directional effects from the surrounds are frequent and help create an auditory experience for this film that both heightens the awareness of what the characters experience, through sound only, and an immersive one that brings you further into the world of Blindness.
Quality over quantity.
“A Vision of Blindness” – Making Of Blindness Documentary - (55:29) – Broken into 25 chapters, this is a ‘Making of’ documentary or uncommon value. Behind the scenes footage of the shoot, informative discussions with the director, a look at training the actors to be ‘blind’, creating the sets with conversations with the production designer and so much more. Seeing the actors who at times are wearing special contacts that actually rob them of sight and give them the reality of the ‘white sickness’ – the name of the disease in the film, helps give us an deeper appreciation of the actors, and watching the production crew create a sense of abandonment and desolation on the city streets adds to a greater appreciation of the films production values. The revealing and edifying nature of the well produced documentary is just terrific – never perhaps more so than seeing the author, sitting with the director after a screening, express his emotional joy at what he has just seen.
Deleted Scenes - (00:00) – Five deleted scenes with written introductions by the Director include more footage for Danny Glover and an initial version of the first rape scene.
Blindness is a piercing look at the human condition when unexpectedly tested. It is at times shocking, humorous, dramatic, chilling, thrilling, sweet and personal; everything that humanity is. Fernando Meirelles is a director who captures humanity well. In The Constant Gardner it was frailty and turmoil abundant among loss and perseverance that he captured with his directorial style and he has adapted it well for Blindness. This is a unique film with terrific performances and one that is very much recommended.