Release Date: Oct. 3
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Writer: Jose Saramago (novel), Don McKellar (screenplay)
Cinematographer: Cesar Charlone
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal
Studio/Run Time: Miramax Films, 120 mins.
First a man on the street goes blind.Mark Ruffalo AsBlindness
The film is adapted from Jose Saramago’s novel of the same
name which helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature.Its source feels ripe for film adaptation,
filled with visual cues Hitchcok or Powell could only dream about.Unfortunately, though, it ended up in
Fernando Meirelles’ (City of God, The Constant Gardner) hands instead, and he proves just how difficult it can be to deal with this kind of storytelling.
Not to say that Meirelles is an incompetent director. Far
from it, in fact.But his filmmaking is about
stylization and expressiveness.In a
sense, he isn’t raw enough for this material, and all of his visual tics, such
as constantly fading in from white or heavy-handedly focusing on eyes, soften
the film’s impact by calling attention to themselves.Blindness
was cut in test screenings because audiences found some scenes too brutal,
illustrating perfectly how much Merielles missed the point; given the nature of
the work, the phrase “too brutal” should not exist.Meirelles imprints himself on every frame, but
this shifts from interesting to intolerable by feature's end.
While the camerawork and editing are distracting, all
aspects of the mise-en-scene are phenomenal. The prison is beautifully repulsive, while the
post-apocalyptic streets are more frightening in their own way than any mere
horror film.Leads Moore and Ruffalo play their characters with a battered humanity, and enough good
things cannot be said about Gael Garcia Bernal’s performance as The King of
Ward Three.What it all amounts to is a
cohesive world that’s as mesmerizing as it is appalling.
It’s the striking contrast between the visuals and the
filmmaking that makes Blindness such an
odd feature.Even without the two elements meshing,
the storyline and acting maintain interest, but it’s never as tense as it
should be since it feels like Meirelles left the training wheels on. Blindness
is still quite good, but it’s impossible to miss how great it could have been
if someone like Paul Greengrass or Alfonso Cuaron, directors possessing the chops for stark
realism, were given the project instead.