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Review: Blindness

Adapted from Jose Saramago's novel, Blindness combines the nightmarish scenario of a sightless universe with an overload of symbolism and gimmicks, writes Rashid Irani.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2009 19:35 IST
Rashid Irani

Cast: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
Direction: Fernando Meirelles
Rating: ** ½

After the neon-lit streets of Sao Paulo (Maids), the slums of Rio de Janeiro (City of God) and the disease-savaged countryside of Kenya (The Constant Gardener), the celebrated Brazilian director Meirelles has set his fourth feature in an unnamed city.

Adapted from the 1995 novel by the Nobel prize-winning Portuguese author, Jose Saramago, Blindness combines the nightmarish scenario of a sightless universe with an overload of symbolism and gimmicks. Another literary work, alas, bites the dust.

Blame it largely on the schematic script by Don McKellar. Incidentally, he also plays the part of the ‘good Samaritan’ who comes to the rescue of a blind Japanese driver in the opening sequence.

Soon, people all over the city begin to lose their vision, including an ophthalmologist (Ruffalo) who’s at a loss to explain the epidemic. Inexplicably, only the doctor’s wife (Moore) appears to be immune. She remains at her husband’s side throughout his ordeal, hoping to lead him out of the ‘darkness’. Meanwhile the knee-jerk response of the powers-that-be is to quarantine the afflicted in an abandoned hospital.

The situation spirals into Lord of the Flies-style savagery. There is a severe shortage of supplies, law and order are defunct and women are gang-raped by a group led by a sadistic bully (Gael Garcia Bernal).

The finale is hopelessly pretentious. The cautionary message that even with their vision intact, people fail to truly ‘see’ one another is conveyed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

The background music score and jagged editing patterns also grate. With the exception of the redoubtable Julianne Moore, whose characterisation is relatively restrained, none of the other actors leaves an impression.

Bottom line: buy the book instead