Blindness (2008)

“Blindness” (2008)



spatial white

At certain points of their lives, many artists feel the need to descend to the abysses of human degradation, of absence of humanity (or radical shifts of values). It’s the catacombs Piranesi brilliantly imagined, it’s Dante’s hell. The basic intent of this kind of journey, i suppose, is not so much to imagine a possible reality where we might live, but to mirror our own reality, the rotten bits of our many times ridiculous existence. Exaggeration is a device artists often use to enhance whatever they try to say. Blindness, the novel, was Saramago’s descent to the catacombs, the darkest piece of writing of a dark ironic pessimist (or an optimist of another kind of humanity). Meirelles, who had previously made to dark films, uses the novel to make his own descent. As a matter of curiosity, he admitted he wanted and failed to adapt the book, and eventually went on to direct Cidade de Deus. The mix of ideas and creative minds is deadly powerful, and the effect really is what’s intended. This is a well crafted representation of a possible hell, of a possible reality, of our actual reality(?).

Before cutting to the film, i should say something. There is a little Brazilian documentary, practically unknown. It’s called “Janela da Alma” (window to the soul, free trans.). It’s about vision, of course, it’s about observing, about what it means to a number of artists to watch, to see. To use the eyes to grab the world, and to express feelings. Among many interesting real people and artists that collaborate, i’ll talk about 2 of them. One is Saramago, who wrote the novel, Blindness. The other one is a blind photographer (forgot the name) who photographs out of intuition, obviously not caring for the final result which he can’t see, but doing photography as a means to get to the world. It’s a terrific concept if you think about that. I recommend you watch that documentary, before or after this film. You may find interesting things in it. In the film there is even a moment when Ruffalo’s character photographs out of “blind’s intuition” as he says…

(possible spoiler)

The dramatic arcs are similar to what we have in Irreversible. We land straight in hell, we get as dark as we can, right from the beginning, and we go up the stairs towards light, as we move on. That’s why in this film we don’t have much of a prelude to what’s going to happen. It’s a powerful device because it doesn’t allow us to be rational, as spectators we feel as much in the dark(white) as someone who suddenly lost his seeing abilities.

Basically, the film becomes a study on how civilization would be without a basic column, the eye sight. “what would happen if…?”. It’s simple and effective device and, because it deals with vision, and the game of taking it out, it’s purely cinematic, literally visual. Meirelles obviously got it, that’s why he wanted to adapt it in the first place. All that happens is the consequence of not seeing. Several things can be taken from here: after the initial chock of loosing vision, people adapt, and create conflicts, hierarchies, new conflicts and new hierarchies, but we are supposed to identify to what we see (and if you have a conscience you will). New groups are formed, new friendships, new “families”.

Meirelles is a highly visual director. In this one, he is much more of a “framer” than in his previous ones, where the skill was in rhythm (editing). Oh, this one has fine pieces of editing, starting at the beginning. But it is much more architectural in its approach. After all, the issue of loosing eyesight and relating to the world is purely spatial. It’s a matter of one’s relation to a world conceived to be seen. Being an architect himself, Meirelles certainly appreciates this better than other directors.

So, the visual game he plays, is space, and colours (b&w). The photography is highly depurated, contrasting when there has to be a contrast, but mainly developed around over exposed almost white pictures, and total darkness, which actually exists for probably 30 seconds in a specific scene, when Julianne Moore looks for food in a basement.

The acting is good, Julianne Moore is at the top of her game in the way she is intense without over exploding, and in how she shows us a surface at the same time she suggests there are other faces to her character. So, she is the leader here, literally in the story, since she’s the only one that can see. All the others play along, except for McKellen who often sounds just arrogant as an actor, the kind that believes actors are what the whole film (and all the films) are about. Strange, given the fact that he was also a screenwriter in this film. Glover’s character was interpreted by Meirelles as an alter-ego of Saramago. His acting is quite good though limited in time, and the off voice has the right tone. An interesting trivia is that when we first see him, he hears the radio, and what he hears is European Portuguese. The off voice Glover gives and that radio detail are what Meirelles uses to tell us that’s his designated narrator, an on screen appearance of Saramago.

Meirelles claims that earlier cuts of the film had a more repulsing effect, where more dark and shocking and that, even by the studio influence, he watered down the final cut. I think he might have hit a little bit harder on that key. It was also what the whole story is about.

My opinion: 4/5 this didn’t change my life but it certainly created a lasting mark on me

This comment on IMDb



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