Meirelles’ visual style may be overwhelming, but this is still a rather well-made piece about the human condition.
Dir. Fernando Meirelles
2008 | Brazil | Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi | 121 mins | 1.85:1 | English & Japanese
M18 (passed clean) for violence including sexual assaults, language and sexuality/nudity
Cast: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael García Bernal
Plot: A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant ‘white blindness’.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: Focus Features Intl
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 12 Oct 2008
One of the most talented filmmakers to emerge from South America at the turn of the century, Oscar-nominated Fernando Meirelles propelled himself to international stardom with City of God, perhaps the greatest gangster picture since Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas in 1990.
City of God established his skill as a natural storyteller and is the best example of Meirelles’ distinctive visual style. His next film was The Constant Gardener, a hit with critics and sophisticated viewers alike. Blindness is his third film in six years. And it is a slight letdown by his towering standards.
A city hit by a strange and highly infectious eye virus results in the loss of sight in everyone except for a woman played by Julianne Moore. Moore’s character becomes a savior for the masses, a heroine who understands the suffering of her species, yet it is probably herself whom is the most tortured soul amongst them.
Moore gives a stunning performance of emotions, laying bare the essentials of what makes the mind sane. She is incomparable in these kinds of films, having the remarkable ability to slip naturally into her character’s shoes despite the challenging demands of the role.
The supporting cast is led by Mark Ruffalo who is more at ease as a supporting actor than a lead one. He complements Moore as the emotionally restrained husband whose sight is also affected. Almost three-quarters of Blindness are set in a filthy and grimy quarantine centre where the blind are held captive like prisoners-of-war.
“The only thing more terrifying than blindness is being the only one who can see.”
The human condition is tested to the limits when food supply becomes scarce. Men form their clans (some democratic, others anarchic), demanding jewelry and women to satisfy their greed and lust respectively in exchange for food rations.
The subject matter explored is not so much of the implications of blindness but what people can do in dire circumstances that have no regards to morality and dignity. Blindness is a tough film to sit through because of this.
There is also no compromise in showing nudity in the film. In a world of the blind, this is nothing of a hoo-hah. But as viewers with the gift of sight, the numerous shots of full male/female nudity merely serves as a titillating reminder of our lustful guilt.
Blindness is adapted from a novel by Jose Saramago, though Meirelles has made the picture very much his own. His mastery of various cinematographic techniques is on showcase here. Instead of painting a cavern of darkness, he chooses white as the focal visual reference of the blind in the film.
The alternate use of extreme whites and the dark shadows of reality make this literally a blinding experience for the unaccustomed viewer. Although Meirelles’ visual style is evident, it is too overwhelming. Ultimately, it seems like the story (which is well-written) is playing second fiddle to the director’s indulgence.