Soon into this movie, I did indeed become overwhelmed with fear of going blind, mostly because I realized that if it got any worse I wouldn't be able to safely flee the theater. Easily one of the worst movies I've seen all year, Fernando Meirelles' Blindness can only be a total nightmare for fans of the book and a complete shock to everyone else. How could such an interesting concept go so horribly wrong?
The title isn't too creative, but it's about as descriptive as it needs to be. One by one, everyone in the world suddenly and mysteriously loses their eyesight. Called the "white sickness" (those who suffer from it only see constant white light), the condition causes a SARS-like panic among the public, and the first major group of victims (all of whom are nameless) is quarantined in an abandoned hospital, or dorm, or factory - whatever that was. An eye doctor (Ruffalo) is one of these early victims, and for reasons unexplained, his wife (Moore) is the one person in the world who is immune to the "infection".
The majority of the movie takes place in the three wards of this asylum, where we witness what amounts to a crazy social experiment reminiscent of "Lord of the Flies". All cultural norms gradually erode away as blind groups in the wards turn on each other in a desperate attempt to stay alive. It's a situation that just oozes potential for studies in leadership, morality, responsibility, and the degradation of human culture, but we're left seeing decaying limbs, human waste, and fat, naked bodies. In easily the most disturbing scene of the movie, an African-American male (an interesting casting note?) from the violent, ruling ward punches a woman to death while raping her. Any remnants of hope I had for mankind were completely dashed when this scene evoked laughs in the audience. This world is over.
In between the disgusting imagery and bad acting throughout the majority of Blindness, we actually don't see much at all. Meirelles does his best to convince us that we're actually going blind, manipulatively using blurred focus, mixed-scene editing, washed-out lighting and, in one overlong scene, a completely black screen backed by exaggerated sound effects. None of this worked, of course, but that dark scene did satisfy my curiosity about whether the movie would be better if I simply closed my eyes (it wasn't). When the group anticlimactically reenters society, Meirelles switches gears, somehow downshifting from a terrible suspense thriller to a senseless horror flick with the comically animalistic human behavior seen in Dawn of the Dead and other recent zombie movies. We're even graced with a topless shower scene, one of many gratuitously "dramatic" moments Meirelles tosses in just to remind us that he's taking this seriously. Sound familiar? M. Night Shyamalan employed the same tactic to disastrous effect in The Happening, a movie which Meirelles should be thankful already firmly holds the title of worst movie of 2008.
[Agh, I've been sitting here for 15 minutes unsuccessfully trying to caption this PERFECT picture with a wicked description! Share yours in the comments...]
What's more surprising? That I made it through this entire movie, or that I still have hope for the future projects of Fernando Meirelles? It would take a lot more than one bad movie - even one as horrendous as Blindness - to cancel out the brilliance of City of God, and there was more than enough potential in The Constant Gardener and this year's overlooked City of Men to keep faith that Meirelles still has talent and artistic vision to spare. This was just a case of a filmmaker completely inhabiting his own picture, from the awkwardly-used cinematography to the carefully constructed deserted city, which in my opinion looked much more realistic in I Am Legend, Children of Men, and even a movie like Vanilla Sky. When every piece of trash and every burning car is perfectly placed in each scene, what is actually a real city location begins to look way too much like a set. Whatever - this is obviously the least among the problems found in Blindness. As it is, you'll be wasting the eyesight that you may still have in sitting through this movie. Your vision (and your hard-earned money) would be much better spent on this year's uplifting Blindsight.
Writing - 5
Acting - 6
Production - 6
Emotional Impact - 4
Music - 5
Social Significance - 5
Total: 31/50= 62% = D