Out in theaters this week is Blindness, a movie directed by Fernando Meirelles who has a thing for putting together weird, artsy pieces like The Constant Gardener and City of God. The film itself is an adaptation of the 1995 novel Blindness, and originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival back in May.
The concept of this movie is pretty cool on paper. An epidemic of blindness randomly breaks out in the middle of an un-named city. The "disease" itself is never explained, but seems to spread incredibly quickly and is based on human contact. Starting with just a handful of people, soon the entire city becomes infected, and people are shipped off in quarantine by the truckload.
Something that bugs me right off the bat is that this movie feels too artsy. I don't have a problem with artsy, film festival type movies, but it just feels a little out of place. End of society/disaster movies should play on their strengths (action due to the unfolding circumstances) and not be riddled with metaphors and long, drawn out sequences but maybe that's just me. Just to prove to you that I'm not totally blowing smoke out my ass, here's 2 really artsy things the movie does that probably seemed cool in the planning stage but turn out to be annoying
- A lot of the shots are either over-exposed or under-exposed on purpose (too light or too dark), which was probably the directors' choice to have the audience experience "blindness" as well. I understand the choice to get creative and say, "Hey this will make everyone watching be more sympathetic for what the characters are going through!" and I did, for about 20 seconds.
- None of the characters have names. This isn't the first time it's been done in movies, but it does make it considerably difficult to write about. Normally I would just refer to each character by their name, but since this is a movie with not a lot of big names (except Julianne Moore as the star and 2 others, if that many) the actors names are on the lines of Gael García Bernal, Yusuke Iseya, and Eduardo Semerjian, I'm going to simplify things by referring to them by the character names I have given them: Julianne Moore, Moore's husband, thief, d*ckweed with gun, asian man, asian woman, whore, random boy, and eye-patch Danny Glover.
Asian man is the first person (ever) to randomly experience the blindnes. After a thief promising to take him home steals his car, Moore's husband who is an eye doctor examines him. Since they both came into contact with Asian man, the thief and Moore's husband also go blind and it spreads out from then on. Julianne Moore decides she cannot part with her husband, so she pretends to be blind (she never becomes infected) and also gets shipped off in the quarantine van to an un-named hospital. No one is studied, examined, or tested at this quarantine hospital. In fact, the only assistance the infected get is from a constantly repeating tape over the TV's about why they are there, and a small military guard group outside beyond the fences that dumps food off in boxes into the yard and lets them sort it out between themselves. In that respect, it's sort of like a death camp but for the blind! Also in our group is an ex-prostitute who becomes attached to a random boy for no reason, and Danny Glover is the nicest old man ever who for some reason wears an eye patch throughout the entire movie despite the fact that he is blind in both eyes, as well as the fact that if he's hiding a difigured eye no one else can see it anyway since the whole world is blind.
Eventually things get out of hand. D*ckweed with gun is a man in the 3rd ward of this "hospital" who, you guessed it, finds a gun somewhere and decides he's going to be calling the shots from now on. He declares that his ward is going to ration out the food as they see fit " first in exchange for jewelry, and then in exchange for "women". Yep.
Right about there this movie takes a turn from "cool concept" to "wow this is disturbing". Rest assured the blind/orgy/rape scenes are pretty much what you'd expect them to be. Director Fernando Meirelles wants us to sympathize with these blind victims living in chaos and I think he gets the job done well enough.
Except that's really it though. The story isn't very cool since they never explain or resolve any of the blindness related issues or show society crumple to the ground, it's just a non-stop sequence of random events with no real build up to a final conclusion. Also with symbolic, metaphor filled movies you'd usually expect an ending with a moral or a message. Instead it just ends with an out of the blue, happy copout.
Grade: This movie is pretty run-of-the-mill, and not really all too memorable. The shots that were intended to be artsy go on for way too long and get a little frustrating. The characters aren't good enough where you feel connected to them, even to Julianne Moore as the lead. The ending is also just an emotional bailout that seems a bit out of place. C-
The Bottom Line: If you really liked City of God (or have ever wanted to see Julianne Moore full frontal), you might want to give this a shot. If you have never even heard of City of God, or have no idea what I'm talking about whatsoever, don't worry about it. Worry about what? I didn't say anything, shhhh it's ok, don't ask any more questions, run along now and go play outside.
Since Hollywood likes to let its biggest release in the summer, it seems that we're now strolling through another Fall of random, forgettable movies with no clear winners in sight (see: Beverly Hills Chihuahua at the top of this weeks box office). Here's to hoping that ends soon.
Next week is Quarantine