‘Blindness’ Is Contagious

Isiah Reyes

Picture a city where panic, destruction and fear unexpectedly arise as everyone suddenly goes blind.

Welcome to “Blindness,” based on Nobel-prize winner Jose Saramago’s 1995 book, “Ensaio Sobre a Ceguerira” (Essay on Blindness). The film illustrates a scenario in which an entire city is stricken with a plague of contagious white blindness from an unknown source followed by swift government intervention to quarantine the infected.

Director Fernando Meirelles (“City of God,” 2003) found it appropriate to follow the book’s format and not give any of the characters a past or even a name. Starring Doctor’s Wife (Julianne Moore, “I’m Not There” 2007), Doctor (Mark Ruffalo, “Reservation Road,” 2007) and Bartender / King of Ward Three (Gael Garcia Bernal, “Babel,” 2006), the movie shows how people would interact with one another if a sense so vital to everyday life were to suddenly disappear.

In the beginning of the movie, the first victim abruptly goes blind in his car with no explanation. Soon after, human nature begins to show its ugly side as people start honking and shouting at the man to either “move it or lose it”. A “courteous” man known as Thief (Don McKellar) tries to help the blind man only for the purpose of stealing his car.

This type of behavior is believable and is portrayed very convincingly. Another believable aspect of the plot is how the government would step in and try to resolve the problem by transporting all the infected people to a ward to be concealed. This action reflects today’s government where problems are kept hidden rather than dealt with head-on.

The people who are sent to the ward do not see or understand what is going on, so they rely on the Doctor’s Wife, who is the only person who has not gone blind (for reasons unexplained). There is mounting tension between the characters at first, but they realize that they must learn to cope with each other in order to survive.

The characters in the film act accordingly to their blindness as they stumble into chairs, walk with arms ahead of themselves and most of the time they have expressionless faces.

The cinematography in this film is also well done. Most scenes try to manipulate the feeling of blindness by using certain visual effects to create scenes that suddenly blank out to whiteness, and other times it is so dark that you can only hear what people are saying.

However, the cons outweigh the pros in this movie.

One of the main aspects that drags the rating down are the characters. They’re very bland and uninspired. The only memorable character after seeing the movie was Bartender / King of Ward Three because of his evil, childlike behavior which was quite humorous to watch. Other than his performance, the other actors such as Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo were very stale and forgettable.

The sex scenes create another problem for this movie. There’s too many of them and they abrupt the flow of the story. There’s one that shows the prostitute character doing her work, then there’s the one with the Doctor when he’s in the ward, then there’s a massive rape scene and so on. It gets to the point where the movie is well directed in terms of being a great adaptation of the book, but for the mainstream audience, you’ll either cringe, cry, or both as you sit through the grittiness.

Also, the nudity in the film doesn’t really match with what’s going on; it’s just sprinkled in random places for shock value.

The last thing that dips the rating down is the fact that almost all the main points to the plot are left blank. The cause for the blindness epidemic is unknown, the reason why the Doctor’s Wife can see while everyone else cannot is left unanswered and how the rest of the world reacts to this outbreak is, you guessed it, also unexplained.
Apparently, the movie was meant to use blindness as a vehicle which would lead to society’s downfall and would cause the anarchy and fear needed for the story. That is why the origin of the blindness plague is never explained. But still, by the end of the movie, these answers float around the viewer’s head and no sufficient closure is offered. You never learn more than what you knew at the start of the movie.

Overall, “Blindness” is a good movie if you want something new and exciting that will leave you jarred, but otherwise, the average moviegoer may find this movie a bit too uncensored for a casual viewing.

So if you would like to see how a city would react to a newly disabled fear of the unknown and all the chaos that would ensue, then be sure to see “Blindness,” a film that isn’t afraid to expose its bare nature.
Distributed by Miramax Films, the full runtime for “Blindness” is 120 minutes and is rated R for violence (including sexual assaults), language, sexuality and nudity.

My rating is 2 out of 5 stars.