Blindness is a flim I didn’t know a massive amount about when I started to watch it, other than the basics, and that’s probably how best to approach it.
Similarly, there is a minimal amount of opening credits – just the title, following the initial scene where we see a stream of traffic approaching a junction and all of the cars are about to move forward. Except for one. That is the car driven by a Japanese man (Yûsuke Iseya) who can’t move forward because his vision has suddenly become, as he describes, a “sea of white” and like his vision is “swimming in milk”. People come to his aid, including one man who drives him home to his wife, but, as is described by the helpful subtitles, this man is known as Thief (Don McKellar, who also wrote the screenplay), so-called because after dropping off the man off, he steals his car. He soon regrets this as his sight disappers too, as the police spot the stolen car and are about to arrest him.
The Japanese man visits a doctor (Mark Ruffalo) who aims to organise tests for him, but… yes, you know what will happen. However, when it happens the next morning, he fears he’ll pass it on to his wife (Julianne Moore), but she refuses to leave his side.
What follows is a fascinating study of ‘What would you do in this situation?’, in terms of how it plays out and the way society could crumble so quickly in such a short space of time. The government organise all the blind people to be segregated and forced into camps with hospital-like wards where where they fend for themselves and the doctor’s wife only gets to go with her husband by pretending she has also lost her eyesight. As panic and fear sets in, the guards keeping watch over the camps end up with as much morals as the Nazis and you can’t tear yourself away from finding out how they’ll all get on.
I’d never heard of Blindless until recently and it’s a shame how little publicity it’s had over the years as it came out some time ago, in 2008, yet features a number of high-profile actors including some of the above as well as Gael García Bernal, Sandra Oh, Maury Chaykin and Danny Glover.
It’s so rare to find a film that has both a great beginning and an ending. If there’s any fault about it, it’s that it goes on around 20 minutes too long and I did tire a little of the seemingly endless pontificating from Glover’s character.
That said, Blindness is definitely a must-see..
The film is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and often looks purposely washed out to give a bleak and uncompromising look, always with a great deal of white about the picture to fit in with the effect of the blindness in the film. There’s also intriguing direction from Fernando Meirelles with some very unconventional framing, sometimes quite loomed in, as well as inventive use of the environment and visuals with the people in the wards.
The image is a little soft overall, but then I’m watching a DVD on a 50″ plasma screen so it will do anyway, but once you get used to Blu-rays…
The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it features some great surround sound moments, mainly in the wards when everyone apart from the doctor’s wife is blind and the voices drift around the speakers to wonderful effect.
There aren’t many extras, but they are as follows (note: there are some potential spoilers amongst these):
- A Vision of Blindness (55:38): This is an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, covering the concept, the visual effects, the film’s first blind person and the first blind couple, other individual characters, the controversial rape scenes, and locations including the Guelph Correctional Centre, a long-since abandoned place, which forms the main location of the film.
It’s telling of lazy distributors that this near-hour-long extra has 25 chapters, when the film itself only has 12(!)
- Deleted/Alternatve Scenes (6:23): There’s five here, and nothing that really needs to be put back in as, in some cases, they were deleted or changed in order to tighten up the film, providing a better end result, but it’s nice to see them as extras so we can see what also was filmed. Oddly, these are in letterbox 16:9 and not anamorphic like the other extras.
Each contains a written introduction by the director.
- Trailer (2:00): Rated 12A, I didn’t see this before watching the film, and I’m glad as it just gives everything away. Watch the film without seeing this, and you can see the story unfold as it should and not chopped about.
- Audio Description: If you use that sort of thing.
Blindness is out now on DVD.
Region(s): 2, PAL
Running time: 116 minutes
Released: March 30th 2009
Cat no: P925101000
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English for the hearing impaired
Disc Format: DVD 9
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Producers: Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Niv Fichman and Sonoko Sakai
Screenplay: Don McKellar (based on the novel “Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira” by José Saramago)
Japanese man: Yûsuke Iseya
Thief: Don McKellar
Doctor: Mark Ruffalo
Doctor’s Wife: Julianne Moore
Woman with Dark Glasses: Alice Braga
Japanese man’s wife: Yoshino Kimura
Mother of the Boy: Fabiana Gugli
Boy: Mitchell Nye
Man with Black Eye Patch: Danny Glover
Bartender / King of Ward Three: Gael García Bernal
Engineer: Tom Melissis
Accountant: Maury Chaykin
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.