Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”)
Written by: Don McKellar (“The Red Violin”)
With 2004’s “City of God,” Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles quickly became one of the most talked-about directors of the new century. That’s why you hope projects like “Blindness” are mere flukes in a career that started off so impressive.
Adapted from the novel by Jose Saramago, “Blindness” tells the story of a group of people who are quarantined when an epidemic causes them to lose their sight. The plague starts when a man goes to an unnamed ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) when he suddenly loses his sight while sitting in traffic. The following morning, the good doctor has lost his vision as well.
Soon, a handful of people are infected with the “white blindness,” an idea that somehow gives Meirelles reason to whitewash most of the film with extra lightning and overexposing some scenes. The visually aggravating cinematography, however, is the least of the film’s problems. Although it’s an interesting idea, McKellar’s narrative is ineffective.
As more people become sick, they are sent off into hospital wards where an aggressive pecking order amongst the blind community slowly begins to take shape. Julianne Moore (“The Hours”) plays the eye doctor’s wife, who goes to the ward with her husband despite being the only person who can see. It’s never explained why Moore’s character doesn’t lose her vision, which isn’t that big of a deal. “Children of Men” never tells us why Kee (the pregnant girl) is the only one in the world who can bear a child. The difference, however, is that Kee in “Children of Men” was a symbol of faith. In “Blindness,” Moore’s character is so frail, there’s really no reason to develop her into anything more than collateral for the heathens that live among her.
There is so much Meirelles wants to say about the blind leading the blind, his metaphors come off heavy-handed and wasted. “Blindness” may be reaching for some deep-seated ideas about the brutality of society, but there’s no way to describe exactly what he wants us to know when he’s delivering it in incoherent, sometimes laughable, pieces.