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  Blindness Did You See?
Year: 2008
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Stars: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Gael García Bernal, Danny Glover, Yusuke Iseya, Yoshino Kimura, Don McKellar, Mitchell Nye, Maury Chaykin, Amanda Heibert, Tracy Wright, Tom Melissis, Jorge Molina, Patrick Garrow, Joseph Motiki, Sandra Oh
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A Japanese man (Yusuke Iseya) is driving through the city when he stops at the traffic lights and finds, when the signal changes and he is supposed to drive on, that he cannot see. The drivers behind him grow angry and pump their horns until passersby notice that the man is in distress and take him from the car. One of them (Don McKellar) volunteers to drive him home and on the way there the Japanese man starts worrying that this Good Samaritan may not be all he seems, but he has no choice but to go along with him. He is indeed taken home, but as the helper leaves, he steals the man's car keys, not realising he has been exposed to what will become an epidemic...

Actual blind people were deeply unamused by this adaptation of José Saramago's controversial novel, where losing your sight is equated with the general lack of empathy with your fellow human when in this case it spreads across the world, or so we imagine. The premise is akin to Day of the Triffids only without the Triffids, with the heroine, a doctor's wife played by Julianne Moore (none of the characters are supplied with names), the only one who can see in a society where everyone else cannot. The way it plays on film is as a pretentious horror story that goes to some particularly grim places before it winds up on a note of hope for the planet.

The doctor (Mark Ruffalo), an eye specialist, is one of the first afflicted which is curious because unlike, say, the thief, he doesn't seem a bad sort at all so it appears unfair that he should fall victim as well. But he does, and this cues the largest section of the film where he and his wife, who refuses to leave him, are sent by protective suit-wearing soldiers to what can best be described as an internment camp. It is far from convincing that in the early stages of the panic that the afflicted should have been left on their own in an unfriendly environment with only occasional food parcels to appease them: there's not even any medical staff trying to find a cure on the site.

So that strains credibility early on, though how much farther the believability will be stretched depends very much on your view of human nature. If you think that we're all basically self-serving and corrupt, then the way the events pan out in the camp will seem all too real, yet if you think that there would be the spirit of "hey, we're all in this together so let's make the best of it" prevailing, then you won't be going along with the descent into a self-created hell that the prisoners end up in. One man (Gael García Bernal) proclaims himself the King of his ward and sets about keeping all the food for him and his men, a situation that does not end prettily.

At first the Ward 3 men demand valuables for food, and not much of it at that, then what McKellar's script sees as the inevitable when they ask for women to satisfy their desires. None of the women on the doctor's wife's ward wish to go, but she cannot risk her cover being blown as she has told nobody she can see, so a highly objectionable development occurs that ends when she takes up violence to put a stop to it. Mind you, although she does it unselfishly, it does render the film hypocritical when it cannot, or will not, work out another way for her to succeed: why couldn't she have tried the gates earlier, for example? Blindness takes itself very seriously, which was the best way to tackle this, granted, but it does not prevent the enterprise coming across as an apocalypse movie for those who turn their noses up at the trashier versions of such things normally. Yet as a parable it sets its own unreasonable rules. Music by Uakti.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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