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Blindness (2008)

Blindness. Feature film. (2008, 121 mins) IMDB

...adapting a novel is never easy...

A

simple premise: what if an entire population of a city all went blind? It formed the basis for a novel by a Portuguese writer, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and eventually this film.

I haven't read the novel but the film has inspired me to do so in part because the film, despite lots of talented people involved in the production, is a failure. Adapting a novel is never easy and sometimes impossible. I want to understand why the novel is a success and the film a failure. Why the break? There's no answer unless I read the novel.

The film takes place in non-descript large city in a non-descript country. It was purposely meant to be non-descript.

A young man sits in the driver seat of his car waiting for the red light to turn green when in a flash he goes blind. Stuck, a stranger offers to drive him home and does and promptly steals his car.

The blindness isn't typical blackness, but a bright white light. The young man visits an eye doctor and learns there's no logical explanation for the sudden blindness.

From this man, the blindness spreads. The thief goes blind, the doctor goes blind. One by one, like a virus spreading from human to human, people suddenly lose their vision except for the doctor's wife.

The cause of the blindness is never explained, the reason it spreads is never explained. These things just happen. We're into a fantasy world.

Panic ensues. Governments and people panic.

The government decides to take the first victims to a hospital for quarantine, it doesn't work as the entire population goes blind.

Act II revolves around this group of people in the hospital. It's not a typical hospital. They are prisoners with no caregivers. Soldiers guard the perimeter of the building to keep them in. Some are shot. Food is frozen dinners and packaged meals.

The people are separated into three group on different wards. Each group has a leader. The way it's set up is like three nations and when food becomes scarce, the fighting and power struggle begins.

What is shown in the last half of the second act is barbarism at its worse. Filth. Attacks. Abuse. Rape. Violence. The place is run amok.

In one final battle, the "good" group fights back and kills the "bad" group. Normally such a sequence would be satisfying to watch, but not in this instance. I wonder if it's because there were too many characters. There is no central protagonist we root for.

When the battle is over, the good group realizes the guards have left and they can leave the hospital and do. They are lead by the wife who can see. Rather convenient don't you think? The streets are littered with abandoned car, garbage, corpses. It reminded me of images of New Orleans during Katrina. A pack of dogs tore at one corpse but we were saved gruesome details.

In Act III, the group makes their way to the doctor's home and scavenge for food. They make it. They arrive together. They find food and start to live a new existence in this house until, by magic, the first person who went blind regains his vision. With time, the rest would regain their vision.

The story tries to paint a picture about human nature, fundamental human nature. In one group people come together despite their language, background, race etc. In another group, terror and violence are used to control others. I don't think we're surprised by any of it.

I think one of the fundamental problems with the film is the lack of a central character. We see numerous characters and often not enough to get to know them.

Posted 2009/05/21 at 20h24ET in Movie Commentary.

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