Movie Review: “Blindness” Reveals a Ghostly World Seen Through Electric Mist

Director Fernando Meirelles (“City of God,” “The Constant Gardner“) opens “Blindness,” his adaptation of Jose Saramago‘s allegorical novel, in heavy traffic. Moving from close-ups of traffic lights to an overhead view of the thickening congestion, he zeroes in on a Japanese man who has suddenly gone blind.

In most cases of blindness, everything goes dark. For this first blind man (Yusuke Iseya), everything has gone white. He feels like he is swimming in a sea of milk As this blindness, christened “The White Sickness” by the health department, spreads through contagious contact, victims are quarantined in a prisonlike compound, where they are left to fend for themselves.

As their numbers increase, the quarantined are divided into three wards, two of which develop into warring tribes with conflicting ideologies. The first is a democracy headed by the doctor (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife (Julianne Moore), who is the only sighted person in the compound, as she feigned blindness to remain near her husband. The other is a dictatorship commandeered by the King of Ward Three (Gael Garcia Bernal), who has appropriated the food supply and metes it out in starvation rations to those who can pay for it with jewelry or sex.

Meirelles and cinematographer Cesar Charlone use several visual approaches to communicate the world of the sightless. At times, everything is flooded in bright white light, giving the effect of a ghostly world seen through an electrical mist. At the other end of the spectrum, the chaos and horror of the mass rape scene is achieved by illuminating the near-total darkness with the occasional flare of candlelight.

The cast does excellent ensemble work, with each of its members contributing to the overall effect rather than seeking opportunities for star turns. Moore, who proved her mettle as an action star in “The Forgotten,” continues to show there is more than one way to hold down the center of a picture. Eschewing the overt heroics of Sigourney Weaver‘s Ripley, Moore leads her blind legions out of the cave using nothing but clear vision and common sense.

Audiences who want their stories to make scientific sense might be taken back by such a preposterous idea as blindness being a contagious disease, but the blindness that concerns Nobel Prize-winning author Saramago is metaphorical. In the author’s view, Such a contagion can be cured if the few people who are not blind have the guts to do something about it.

Meirelles adds another perspective, that the epidemic might be a good thing if, by being thrown into the darkness together, we may once again recognize the human family to which we all belong.

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7 thoughts on “Movie Review: “Blindness” Reveals a Ghostly World Seen Through Electric Mist

  1. I read Saramago’s The Cave and liked it a lot. I have meant to read some of his other works, so this sounds cool. So does the film and the cast couldn’t be better. Nice review, Bill.

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  2. I hope you enjoy the film, Cindy. A lot of people disliked it. of course the book was better, but I found the film fairly faithful to it.

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  3. Oh, I am enjoying reading your book. Is your narrator a product of your imagination or is this non-fiction? Sure seems like your childhood and if so, movies have played a major role in your life. I remember watching The Blob and being very scared (Ch.2). Your three childhood theaters are universal, it seems. As a kid in San Diego, I swear we had three similar ones including the pedophile wanker.

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  4. I am flattered that you are reading it. every word of it is true and accurate.. I am working on the second book now, covering the years 1981-1996, and it is so much more difficult to remember the exact chronology of events. One problem is that movie theatres became so generic that it is hard to remember in which theatre i saw which films, whereas in the era of movie palaces and grindhouses, i remember everything. the movies are uniquely tied to the theatres in which they were played.

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  5. Thanks Cindy, but I never did know how to turn my work into a commodities, The writing itself takes everything out of me, and Im no good at being a salesman. I had a friend who wrote a memoir 25 years ago. i thought it was the best account i had ever read about growing up in the 50’s.But there was this one episode inwhich the guy wrote about being molested by his baseball coach. He was invited onto the Oprah show because of this chapter, and turned her down because he didnt want to exploit that facet of the book. He probably lost 100,000 sles because of his decision. The good news is that his book led to the arrest and conviction of his molester, who had done the same to several other boys.

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  6. It was a difficult time for so many. Gosh, I think everyone was abused in some fashion. For example, I have never met a girl from my generation who wasn’t abused by some relative. Catholic friends older than I only spoke of nightmares. I became Catholic late in life and missed out on the horror stories. Not so with stepfathers and uncles. Anyway, I am glad for your friend who had resolution. I don’t think anyone is safe from the bad side of humanity. I know there is goodness and I try to cling myself to them and spread a light for others. Cheers, mate 🙂

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