Friday, October 3, 2008


“That’s impossible, nobody goes blind like that.”

It starts when a single man (Yusuke Iseya) experiences sudden blindness. The condition quickly spreads around the city, and the government quarantines the infected, forcibly sending all of them to a military controlled facility.

The story has a good concept even if it doesn’t ever develop it fully. Based on the novel by Jose Saramango there are two main themes at work here. The first, and less interesting, is how quickly and easily humans devolve into animals given a crisis. Events in the quarantine facility soon destroy social convention and niceties leading to riots over food, war, murder, and rape. Not the prettiest of pictures, even for the blind.

The second theme, which is more engaging yet less developed, involves the the issue of the eye doctor (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife (Julianne Moore). Moore’s character alone is immune to the blindness and is our eyes to the horrors that ensue. Here the film has a chance to ask a profound question - which is the worse fate losing your sight or being the only one who can see when everyone else has gone blind? Too bad the this theme gets lost amongst the chaos.

The film chooses to show us only what the victims hear about their situation. Nowhere, except in a small bit of news coverage, is their any news about what the disease is and what is being done to destroy it. There are no scientists or medical personnel at the facility which would seem necessary if any attempt at a cure was to be made. This allows us to feel lost in the world with those infected, but once we’ve given up caring about them we have nothing else to keep our attention.

There are some choices by director Fernando Meirelles which I found odd. Included here are odd camera angles, darkly light scenes, and obstructed views randomly placed throughout the film. Why? Those who are blind can see nothing so whose vantage point is being expressed in these moments? Also, the whiteness scenes which are used to show what the characters can actually see include images which become more clear the closer they appear to the camera. So are these people completely blind (as the script says) or do they have some limited vision (as the camera shows us)?

Also troubling is the lack of a point, moral, or reason for the tale. The film begins, the characters devolve, the world shatters, and they survive. They don’t learn lessons or anything new about themselves, the crisis is never solved by any breakthrough, the characters are not improved by their trials, and the film simply ends. The only point the story seems to make is that humanity can get nasty given such unforeseen circumstances but that’s hardly a new insight even if the theme of blindness might make it appear so for a short time.

The more interesting and personal stories are lost as the film’s characters devolve to such an extent we no longer care what happens to them. It’s rougher scenes are disturbing for the sake of being disturbing without any insight to enlighten the proceedings. Although the acting at the beginning of the film is quite good as the film dissolves into mindlessness so do any character we can identify with or care about. There’s a good concept here and themes worthy of exploration but the execution simply isn’t up to the task. The result is a so-so film filled with the Lord of the Flies style worst of humanity that may not add any insight but will make you feel the need for a long shower.

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