directed by Fernando Meirelles,
screenplay written by Don McKellar,
based on the novel of the same name by Jose Saramago and released by Miramax.
Rated R for language, violence, nudity and rape.
Reviewer: Jim Townsend (Director of Attack of the Vegan Zombies)
This review contains spoilers. I found “Blindness” to be a dark, disturbing film. However, it is a very good one. It is good in that it evokes a response. Unfortunately, that response does not make the viewer feel better.
The story takes place in a major city. A man suddenly goes blind and infects the people who are around him with this spontaneous, inexplicable, blindness. Terrified by the communicability of this new disease, the government quarantines them all in an abandoned insane asylum. One woman (Julianne Moore) pretends to be blind also in order to accompany her husband (Mark Ruffalo) who is taken to the ward. She becomes the matriarch of her close circle of new friends. The ward quickly becomes overcrowded and filthy. With no support from the outside world, they fall into civil war and prey upon each other for the limited supplies and sexually assault the women in exchange for food and water. Ultimately, they burn the building down and discover that the guards have abandoned their posts. Free to leave, they realize that the government has collapsed and things are not much better outside as their struggle for food and shelter continues. The group of survivors led by Julianne Moore’s character finds their way back to her home and, after she fights for food, enjoy a good meal, clean water and a warm place to sleep. When they awake, the first person that was afflicted with this blindness begins to see again.
This is an eerie movie! I applaud the entire production. There are several expansive shots of a major city (Sao Paulo?) in a post-apocalyptic condition. Someone did a lot of work coordinating that with the city and wrangling all those extras. The scenes in the ward are shot (by Cinematographer Cesar Charlone) in washed out disturbing tones over a creepy soundtrack (couldn’t find a Sound Designer credit – sorry) that combined to give me an unsettled feeling as I watched it. The Production Designers (Matthew Davies and Tule Peak) did a wonderful job turning a dilapidated insane asylum into one that is coated in fecal matter, urine and trash. The viewer can smell it. Julianne Moore has taken another non-traditional role and done something very special with it. I especially enjoy the struggle of her relationship with her husband (Ruffalo) as it plays out in the larger struggle for basic survival and humanity. It also makes me want to go see “The Kids Are Alright” for their next on screen pairing. The supporting cast of Danny Glover, Alice Braga and Sandra Oh distinguish themselves by not getting caught trying to distinguish themselves.
The characters who drive this film the most, however, are the villains. Gael Garcia Bernal plays The King of Ward Three. He exploits this terrible situation to gain power for no apparent reason other than some twisted type of boredom (possibly to make up for his lack of authority his character has in his profession as a bartender). The late Maury Chaykin played his partner in crime, The Accountant, in one of his last roles. In one of the most harrowing scenes I have watched in film, these two lead a gang rape of eight women from another ward. I’m not sure which was more difficult to watch, The King of Ward Three verbally degrading his victims or The Accountant trying to sweet talk his victims through the rape.
Obviously, this film is not for everyone. The effort to have an uplifting ending was too little, too late for me. This is not a feel good movie. But if you, like me, think that the goal of a movie is to solicit a response, you will have to acknowledge to profound affect of this movie. It forces me to wonder how I would act if I went blind and needed food. I prefer not to think about it.
I give it a four out of five.