Go ahead, take off your shirt … I’m not blind.

Golden Mug


Best Actress (Julianne Moore)
Best Supporting Actor (Gael Garcia Bernal)

Theatrical Release Date: 10/3/2008
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Danny Glover, Gael García Bernal, Yusuke Iseya, Yoshino Kimura, Maury Chaykin

Before any of you rush right out to see “Blindness”, keep in mind this isn’t quite the mysterious thriller the trailer might lead you to believe. In fact, the film is a taut psychological study of what happens when law and order are removed from society.

Much like the excellent 2001 film, “Das Experiment” (which all psych majors should be required to watch), a group of people are forced to co-exist with one another under inhumane conditions – where authority comes from either democracy or brute strength … and unfortunately, the latter tends to win in most cases.

As you may already know, the basic premise of the film is that people inexplicably begin to go blind. It appears to be contagious and the government quarantines some of them in a rundown building, set up with the bare necessities for survival. Food is brought in but there are no wardens or caretakers to dole it out. It’s up to those inside to decide how to govern food rationing, sleeping arrangements and who’s in charge.

I won’t mention too many more specifics. I just wanted to make sure people realized what kind of film they were getting into. A number of people at the screening I attended walked out – mostly those of the elderly persuasion – and I can understand why. There are some graphic scenes depicting the degradation and devolution of the human species. When the only thing people have to strive for are the basic elements of survival, it’s morality and decency that go flying out the window like a lead balloon.

As far as the acting goes, most everyone was top-notch. Julianne Moore’s character undergoes a serious amount of change and it’s fascinating to watch her shift archetypes more than once throughout the film. Alice Braga does a marvelous job of making her character more than a cliché in regards to her “lady of the night” profession and she manages to raise herself above the situations presented … morally speaking. Gael García Bernal provides perhaps one of his finest performances, albeit in a smaller role. As the self proclaimed King of the facility, his rule is harsh and severe – making it all the easier to demonize his character, as well as his number two man Maury Chaykin, who also provides an excellent performance.

If I were going to call out a weak link, unfortunately I’d have to say it’s Mark Ruffalo. I am a big fan of his work and enjoy the varied projects he chooses. However, here I never was really sold on his authoritative qualities as a doctor/leader and more than a few times, his “blind” acting felt so forced or even non-existent. When I have to remind myself he’s blind, something’s gone wrong.

The film is based on a novel by José Saramago and acclaimed Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles helmed this ship generally in the right direction at all time. This is his second English language film (“The Constant Gardener“) and I hope to see him given more opportunities to share his perspective to American audiences – whether it’s in English or not (“City of God” is a must see).

While there are some pacing issues, and the film’s end sequences seem anti-climactic, Meirelles and company still managed to examine the human condition in a way few films even attempt to. Filming it mostly in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for American audiences it provides a welcome other-worldly atmosphere since it’s not the typical New York or L.A. backdrop. Seeing parts of the city and its people affected by the mass hysteria and paranoia is chilling and very effective.

I do want to again caution people that this isn’t some “let’s all go to the movies and love life” kind of film; rather it’s one that should spark a discourse amongst audiences and is an example of the power of the cinematic medium.

I’m giving “Blindness” a 4 out of 5 and am going to go re-watch “Das Experiment” very soon. Watching the depraved depths to which people will sink to when the chips are down has always been fascinating to me and this film actually gets neurons in my brain to fire … rather than most of the films these days that are meant to dull the pain of conscious thought and trick us into buying some new product or wearing the newest trend. There is a remarkable amount of hope presented in such a dour film, which I personally could have done without but I’m sure that will help audiences reconcile the project as a whole so I won’t get on my high horse this time.

Now where did I put my orange crocs? You know that orange is the new pink, right?