Friday, February 20, 2009


Blindness (Fernando Meirelles, 2008) [6]

I've read Jose Saramago's novel and found it an astounding piece of work. The word 'unfilmable' also came to mind, as the lyrical nature of Saramago's is structured in such a way that a filmic adaptation would surely pale in comparison. So it was with that trepidation that preceded Blindness, and while the film isn't a masterwork, it's definitely better than some of the negative reviews it has received. The plot centers on an epidemic of white blindness that sweeps through an undetermined urban center. The sickness serves as a vehicle to examine the fragility of human nature and its subsequent breakdown as a result of the chaos the blindness creates. The focus is on a group struck early on, headed by an opthamologist (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife (Julianne Moore), who is hiding the fact that she can still see. They have to ward off an aggressive "king" (Gael Garcia Bernal) and make their way through the disorder that the city has become.

As a director with a history of visual extravagance, it's only fitting that Meirelles directed this. And it's only fitting that he overdoes it with his use of pure white or darkness. He is too much of a kinetic director, and his constantly shifting camera angles and style don't help the big ideas that are present in Saramago's writing. It's true that the film makes Saramago's ideas a lot more didactic and intensifies the gruesomeness of what the characters endure in the story. What were subtle examinations on human nature in the novel often comes across too simplified and action oriented. Still, these characters were meant to be put under horrific circumstances and they endure. For all his technical bravado, Meirelles and the script stay close enough to the novel that they are able to do enough right to make it effective some of the time. It's not perfect, but the end product is probably as close to as good an adaptation as Meirelles and company could do.

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