Movies Reviews Fernando Meirelles

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.When he goes in for treatment from an optometrist (Mark Ruffalo), the doctor can find nothing wrong with his eyes. Still, soon afterward, he finds himself blind. As do the optometrist’s other patients, spreading the disease exponentially until it eventually infects the entire world except for one woman (Julianne Moore).Blindness is about that woman, who follows her husband, the optometrist, into a containment camp, acting as sole visual witness to the horrors that humanity unleashes on itself when even the possibility of social order is stripped away.

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.

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