Movie Review: Blindness (2008)

Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore in Blindness
Photo: Miramax

Blindness is a film about the human spirit and it has never looked so ugly. Seriously, Blindness presents a second coming of the concentration camp and it isn’t pretty. A mysterious rash of blindness is infecting people and they are rounded up and quarantined so as not to infect others. Food is dropped off and the members of these closed off camps are forced to fend for themselves. Make due and if you die we don’t care seems to be the motto as armed guards stand watch and will fire at their own discretion. The situation escalates and a happy ending is nowhere in sight and to say the film ever reaches any real sense of happiness (or sense of justice) is a serious stretch in the definition of the word.

The film is shot from the perspective of the infected the entire time with a select group of what equates to handicapped inmates. At the center of the story are a husband and wife duo played by Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore. Ruffalo is an optometrist suffering from the blinding infection while his wife seems immune. When her husband is being quarantined she fakes symptoms of blindness to stay by his side. Moore’s character becomes something of a guiding light on the inside as she holds off on revealing she can see, but what she is about to see may turn her stomach as one scene in particular turned mine.

Blindness almost has the impression of a snuff film once it reaches a scene where a group of nine women are willingly raped as it is the only option for food from a group of the infected who have been hording food and demanding favors and “payment” in return. Up until this point an emphasis has been placed on enhancing the audiences’ auditory senses bringing sound more to the forefront in times of distress rather than images. I am not sure if it was the fact that Moore’s character, who could see what was going on, was also being raped or just the pure intensity of the scene, but it completely turned me off on this film and there was no going back. There is only so much torture and suffering I want to subject myself to in an effort to find a brighter light on the other side and Blindness crosses the line in my opinion.

Like Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel, Blindness is a well made and a well acted film, but none of that makes up for the bleak future the film offers without any release for the audience watching. Fernando Meirelles is an accomplished director having helmed City of God and The Constant Gardener so there is no escaping the quality of his latest picture, but quality in creation does not necessarily translate to quality in product. I can make a perfectly fine baseball bat, but if I start hitting you with it you are not going to be a big fan of said bat, and that is what Blindness equates to. This film beats you over the head time and time again with suffering and despair and it allows for absolutely zero escape.

An additional blemish on the flick is the Marco Antônio Guimarães score. If ever there was a bumbling score this is it, and it just doesn’t quit. Some kind of musical accompaniment is found in damn near every frame and it wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t so ill-fitting. It is hard to describe, but at times it felt like a circus tune bouncing from one side of the room to the other while a blinding white screen attacked my eyes. Blindness is sensory overload and while the people on screen are suffering the audience is forced to join in or leave the theater. I chose to stay until the end, but I recommend you never sit down.