Blindness (2008) directed by Fernando Meirellas, starring Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Gael García Bernal and Danny Glover. This is based on the novel Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira from Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago.
Synopsis: This tells the story of a city that’s inhabitants are struck with an epidemic of blindness known as the “white sickness”. Some of the infected are moved to a prison like quarantined facility and thrust together. They are threatened to be shot if they move from the facility, and the only person who has sight is Moore who plays Ruffalo’s wife. She begins helping the blind adapt to the new conditions, and acts as a mother type figure as a result. As the story progresses, groups are formed per ward in the facility. Bernal becomes the main antagonist and leader of one of the wards. He acquires a gun and threatens people in the other wards over food. We begin to see the way people react when given limited resources, and the anarchy that ensues when people have to fight to survive.
This movie was really thought provoking for me. I like dystopian stories that explore the what if scenario. What if this actually happened? How would the government react? Would there be complete anarchy? It made me think about numerous hypothetical questions.
There were points during this movie that I found hard to watch. As resources are low, there is an instance where Bernal’s ward offer to trade food for women. We witness the women being forced to partake in sexual acts, and it really strips things back to animal instincts. It provokes us to think that the things people need to survive are food and the opposite sex, and people will do anything for survival.
This dominance of animal instinct is displayed outside of the facility too with dogs eating the dead, and people doing anything for food. This movie also shows how adaptable people can be to these types of circumstances, and there are points where we see people content with their situations. There really is a lot being conveyed regarding theme in this story.
This story is more of an ensemble piece, with focus on an array of characters. There is more focus on Moore and Ruffalo, but we gain good insight into other character’s situations as well. Glover acts as the narrator of the story, which adds another dimension to the overall story.
Moore essentially becomes the most useful person in the facility because of her ability to see when everyone else cannot. She is thrust into a position that commands her to help those in need, but this gift also becomes a burden. She begins to resent her sight, and the enormous task she is faced with. Throughout the story, she is one of the characters I rooted for most. She is a loving wife, and it was the love for her husband that caused her to go with him to the facility.
The acting is impressive in this movie, and the more notable performances are that of Moore, Ruffalo and Bernal. Ruffalo is likeable because he wants the best for everyone, and is caring. Bernal is the opposite, and completely clashes with Ruffalo’s character. He dislikes the way Ruffalo is trying to provide order to the facility, and decides to rebel. There are times that I really hated what Bernal was doing which really does convey how effective his performance is. These characters were well constructed to clash with each other, and a lot of tension was the result.
I was impressed with the way Meirellas approached this movie. As the symptoms the blind characters are having is an overwhelming whiteness, there are times where the saturation of the shots are reminiscent of this. There are moments where our view is distorted just like that of the characters which effectively puts the viewer in their shoes.
The writing is also good in this story. As previously stated, the characters are well constructed. What is of further interest is the fact that none of the characters actually have names. Instead, they are confined to names like Doctor (Ruffalo), Doctor’s Wife (Moore), King of Ward Three (Bernal) and Man with Black Eye Patch (Glover). This conveys that at the root of it, names have no real significance in this facility and people assume new identities. As I have not read the novel, this movie has made me want to read it. I am also impressed by José Saramago and screenwriter Don McKellar’s approach to the story as a whole. This focuses less on the blindness illness itself and more on the effects it has on society.
Overall, I was impressed with this movie. If anything, this forces us to think about a number of issues. If we did not have our little lives with food readily available and what seems like unlimited resources, then what would happen? I recommend this.
By Robert Spence