Saturday, October 4, 2008

Blindness (2008) – Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo

An infectious disease that causes blindness spreads most rapidly. The infected are quarantined inside a withered and grimy institution located on the outskirts of town. Among them, is Julianne Moore who is mysteriously immune to the disease, or at least immune to the symptom of blindness. Initially, s
he accompanies her husband to the institution; presumably thinking that they will soon be met with some higher health authority. As the days lag on, Moore realizes that they are likely to be quarantined for the long haul. Despite this knowledge, Moore remains by her husband’s side, conceals her visual ableness to the rest, and is selflessly compelled to care for her husband and all those in the institution.

Banned from exit or escap
e by armed military, the number of those infected in the city grows and as the institution fills up, resources quickly run dry. Of course, because everyone is blind, communication and coordination, let alone negotiation and compromise, are troublesome. Bathing facilities do not exist and sleeping quarters are overcrowded. Subsequently, living conditions become unsanitary. Fecal matter and urine litter the main corridors. Conflict breaks out. A rebellious bunch, armed with weapons, greed, and aggression, take forcible stronghold of the food supply, demand valuables in exchange for meals, and once valuables are scarce, they demand sex from the female patrons. Mothers, daughters, and wives become martyrs. The women compromise their pride, health, and safety to bring subsistence to the lot.

Revolt. Murder. Fire.
Escape. The quarantined, now free, are still blind and helpless. The city is a ghost town and the infected wander aimlessly, both figuratively and literally, in search for food, shelter, peace, and hope.
Points of Interest
The narratives at play, some more obvious than others, make for a subtle complexity.
i) Mark Ruffalo’s character, a young, handsome, and well-qualified doctor, becomes blind and falls to the mercy of his wife, Moore. Of course, all those who are infected fall to the mercy of Moore, but only Ruffalo has a history with Moore as a lover and partner. As Ruffalo’s virility disintegrates, a parallel character who is far less able, far less attractive, and much older than Ruffalo, feels his confidence rise as a romance transpires between himself and a young woman who, though blind to his image, is not blind to his heart.
ii) A sex-trade worker sacrifices her seemingly less than existent worth for the welfare of others. The film portrays how the use of sex as currency need not come at the cost of one’s integrity. The notion that prostitution compromises morality is but a construction; not an axiom.
iii) In the conclusion of the film, the noblest characters band together and secure shelter. They awaken the next day with the ability to see and yet, Moore is now blind. Did she really become blind or was her ‘blindness’ symbolic? Perhaps, after her tireless efforts of selflessness in a circumstance of unrelenting selfishness, Moore unconsciously blinded herself. Recall that the infected described their blindness as being white and not black and in the introductory scenes of the film, when Moore’s husband diagnosed such white blindness with a medical term, Moore identified the linguistic root of said medical term as meaning voluntarily ignorant. Just a thought.
Points of Criticism
i) Blindness is worth watching, but some scenes can be difficult to stomach.
ii) The trailer and the opening scene suggest the film is far more Orwellian than it actually is. The first few shots allude to the power and influence of traffic lights; installations of state that regulate citizenry. However, once the infected are quarantined, their activities are not so much controlled by government as much as they are left to self-govern. The film makes more suggestions about anarchy than about totalitarianism.
iii) The title, Blindness, does not do justice to the film. The story journeys far beyond the mere incidence and experience of blindness. The human instinct of survival and the pride, greed, and selflessness which temper that instinct are far more central. If not blindness, the characters could have been inflicted with some other infectious and disabling disease; perhaps the whooping cough (I kid). And the compulsions to share or to steal or to submit or to defend, would still feature prominently in the narrative. Alternative titles? How about Blind Instinct or Survival Instinct? Or, in reference to iii) under 'points of interest' (above), how about White Blindness? Okay. Let us conclude.
*image courtesy of

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the movie was ass