BLINDNESS

Directed by Fernando Meirelles. 2008.


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Starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover.

Apocalyptic films seem to be the trend as of late, what with the likes of Children of Men, I Am Legend, The Happening, etc, but make no mistake, Fernando Meirelles is not the type of filmmaker to just blend in and follow the crowd. Blindness truly is an eye-opening film. Based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, the film will haunt you long after you leave the cinema. 

The film opens at an unknown time, in an unknown place, with nameless characters. The openness gives the viewer a sense of immediacy and one of the main appeals of the film is that this is the kind of situation that could happen to anyone, at any time, in any place. Apocalyptic films tend to create a sense of fear and panic. They warn the audience of what could happen if we carry on the way we are, destroying the world through global warming, for example. Blindness bucks the trend by moving away from the typical Hollywood conventions of happy endings, self-sacrifice and heroes looking for cures/a way to save the world. Here, a man is driving through a city at rush hour and suddenly goes blind for no apparent reason. Everyone he comes into contact with then develops the illness, dubbed the white blindness, starting an epidemic. One of the infected is a doctor (played by Indie King Mark Ruffalo), whose wife feigns blindness when sufferers are shipped off to an abandoned asylum. It is within this building that all hell breaks loose as those who have become infected are left to fend for themselves.

Not once in the film is a cause for the blindness mentioned, nor does anyone really attempt to search for a cure. There is no hero, only villains, and at times it is hard to decide who to side with. It is a story of desperation and vulnerability but above all it is a story about hope.

Blindness had a poor reception at its world premier at Cannes but had more success at it's South West premier last week (November 2008) at the Cornwall Film Festival. A virtually packed auditorium greeted the film's producer, Simon Channing Williams, with a thunderous applause as he took to the stage to introduce his second collaboration with director Fernando Meirelles. He explained that he wanted to be a part of this film because, like The Constant Gardener, it was a film with a message: “There has been a blindness in the States as to dealing with and understanding people of other nations and other religions and there is a lack of tolerance. There is a terrible feeling of might is right, and, for me, the great thing about Blindness is the fact that we can all see that. We call all see, it is the fact that we don't see”.

There is a moment in the film where one of the characters realises this and says, 'I don't think we went blind, I think we are blind. Blind people who can see but don't'. Meirelles manages to reflect our own blindness to the feelings of others and the lack of connection between us all without being preachy. Like his previous films City of God and The Constant Gardener, Blindness is the kind of film that can change the way we see the world.

Emma Farley
 
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