Home > Reviews > BLINDNESS – Marco Antônio Guimarães

BLINDNESS – Marco Antônio Guimarães

Original Review by Clark Douglas

Just what exactly is director Fernando Meirelles trying to say with “Blindness”? I’m not sure that I know, and I’m not sure that I care. The film is a poorly organized cluster of symbols, metaphors, and painfully obvious statements about humanity that is often quite torturous to sit through.

The movie starts out on something of an intriguing note. A man suddenly goes blind. He doesn’t know why this happened. He was just driving down the road, and suddenly he couldn’t see anything. Curiously, rather than seeing nothing but blackness, he sees nothing but a bright white light. He pays a visit to a doctor (Mark Ruffalo), who can’t figure out what on earth could be wrong with this man’s eyes. A few hours later, the doctor goes blind. So do numerous other people he has been in contact with. The blindness is contagious. For some unexplained reason, the doctor’s wife (Julianne Moore) seems to be immune. However, when the government decides to act quickly and quarantine everyone with the blindness inside of a federal prison, Moore lies about her condition and pretends to be blind in order to stay with her husband.

When all is said and done, several hundred people have been locked inside of the prison. Moore does not tell anyone else that she is blind, for fear that she will be taken away from her husband. However, she does what she can to try and help those who have been afflicted. Things start out well enough, as the confused and frightened individuals attempt to start some sort of cohesive government and system of order. Then everything starts to turn sour, and so does the film.

One of the inmates (Gael Garcia Bernal) decides that he is going to proclaim himself king and take over the prison. He has a gun, which makes him the boss as far as everyone else is concerned. At first Bernal takes over the food supply, and demands that everyone pay him with their prized possessions in order to receive food. When people run out of possessions, he starts demanding other things. The situation just gets uglier and uglier, and the blind inmates begin to grow increasingly despondent and cruel. The film provides us with a rather brutal and very repugnant portrait of humanity (so much so that numerous viewers in my screening walked out during one scene), but to what end? Does the film have any insight to offer, or anything valuable to say?

No, it does not. Not unless you consider the concept that we would all probably turn to violent savages in such a situation to be revealing about the nature of humanity. There is little complexity to the characters, and they often behave in ways that seem considerably more motivated by the script that by anything genuine. During the final half-hour, things let up quite a bit and take a turn for the sweet and cuddly. Though this material is certainly easier to sit through, it’s not more convincing or compelling than what preceded it. I’m sure that it all works on some purely metaphoric level inside the minds of the writer and the director, but it doesn’t work well enough on a more basic cinematic level to make me care about what the hidden intentions of this film may be.

The actors do what they can. Moore probably fares the best, and actually gets to be one of the subtler characters in a movie for a change. Ruffalo is good early on, but sort of gets lost in the shuffle as the film progresses. Gael Garcia Bernal has done little to win me over in recent times, and this film is no exception. His villainous character is a one-note joke. Danny Glover is saddled with some of the movie’s worst dialogue, often being forced to participate in exchanges that made me wince just a little (I understand that the cut of the film which screened at the Cannes Film Festival featured narration by Glover, which was received so badly that it was cut from the film before it hit theatres). The talented Sandra Oh appears in a few scenes, and gets to do absolutely nothing of note in any of them.

Music is provided by Marco Antônio Guimarães, who is a relative newcomer. If this is the best he can come up with, I hope he isn’t handed many more high-profile assignments. Things start off on a rather wretched note, with clanging, banging, scraping, and scratching noises that made me wonder if the score had been written by a group of suicidal kitchen utensils. Fortunately, things improve just a bit as the movie progresses, as Guimarães provides some very simplistic (but pleasant enough) pieces for vibraphone, xylophone, and piano. These are repetitive and completely lacking in complexity, but they are at least listenable. Until I saw the end credits, I had no idea who had written the score. Up until then, my best guess was Gustavo Santaolalla. Make of that what you will.

Meirelles’ previous film, “The Constant Gardener”, was a smart and intelligent attack on pharmaceutical companies. It may not have been particularly subtle, but it was fair and well-informed. This movie seems to be as blind as its characters, blasting shotgun shells wildly into the air in the hope of actually hitting some sort of target. I suppose it contains some measure of realism, and I suppose that some of the scenarios presented here are truthful enough. But is that enough? No, it’s not. The film will also inevitably draw comparison with “Children of Men”, another film that dealt with an unexplained medical phenomenon that changed the world. However, “Children of Men” was relevant and thought-provoking. It offered a rather insightful look at a world that was eerily close to our own, warning viewers of where we could easily go if we do not employ caution and humanity. This film plays out as nothing more than a torturous “what if” scenario. Yes, we know we are capable of terrible things in the wrong circumstances. What else have you got? Oh, that’s it? Then don’t waste my time. This is the sort of film that ought to have a tagline like, “Sometimes you have to go blind before you can really see.” Or maybe, “All it takes to change the world is a leader with vision.” Consider that your warning for today.

Rating: *½

Track Listing:

  • Drama 3 (3:46)
  • Minimal 8 (3:11)
  • Trila Solo 3 (2:20)
  • Chori Solo/Guitar with Bow (2:57)
  • Minimal 5 (3:25)
  • Minimal 13 (3:29)
  • Trilobita Solo 2 (3:03)
  • Minimal 4 (3:22)
  • Minimal 16 (3:53)
  • Piano Strings 3 (3:48)
  • Last Song (2:38)
  • Prelude – Flutes (written by Johann Sebastian Bach) (3:38)
  • Dance of the Hexagrams (3:32)
  • Largo (written by Johann Sebastian Bach) (12:21)
  • Sambolero (written by Luiz Bonfa) (2:49)

Running Time: 68 minutes 12 seconds

Universal Records Digital Download (2008)

Music composed by Marco Antônio Guimarães. Performed by Uakti. Recorded and mixed by Elias Issa. Album produced by Marco Antônio Guimarães.

  1. Ian Mack
    May 3, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Pretty creepy review, Clark. Midges like you are the curse of creative spirits. I loved the music which had lots of hooks and brilliance in a minimalist mix. I’m a muso and a writer.I would have appreciated a more balanced review.

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