Blindness – 2008 Film Dogged By Controversy

Blindness follows a group of unnamed characters as they struggle to survive an epidemic that renders its victims sightless. Rounded up and institutionalized they are left to create a new social order as the outside world slowly succumbs to a blindness bathed in light.

I’m going to have to run headlong into traffic here and say that I thought Blindness was a fantastic film. Though negative swaths of critical review, audiences and even The National Federation of the Blind will beg to differ and have made no secret of their frustration and distaste for the film. Actually it was just this ground swell of negativity that lead me to shuffle Blindness onto my ‘see only if my life has a surplus 120 minutes that I cant possibly do anything else with’ file. In some ways I guess this turned out to be a good thing for now four years after its initial release I can see it stripped bare. Unadorned and free of the clutter that battered and bruised it from the very day of its premier.

2008 Cannes Film Festival

Honored with selection as the opening film for the 2008 Cannes Film Festival it was to receive a brutal 1.3 average out of 4 by Screen International’s Cannes screen jury (which tabulates results polled from a panel of international film critics). Subsequent reviews were no less scathing and this wonderfully sculptured film was set to limp away into obscurity. A shame for there is a hefty swag of talented film making on show here that far and away out paces the lulling and even tempo that now defines mainstream contemporary cinema.

Fernando Meirelles Directs

Fans of the genre will appreciate the intricately constructed post-apocalyptic canvas that director Fernando Meirelles creates here as a backdrop to his vision of a world stripped of its sight. The utter chaos that lays ruin to every aspect of a society that is unfairly weighted toward those who ‘can’ see is the films most enduring element. It is then surprising that quotes the likes of “…it is quite obvious why blind people would be outraged over this movie. Blind people do not behave like uncivilized, animalized creatures.” from the American Council of the Blind would swirl about the film.

Blindness – Controversy Amid the Ruins

From a personal point of view Blindness more than any other film I can recollect extolled the hurdles mastered and surmounted by the sight impaired each and every day. The difference here is that the cast of Blindness are dropped suddenly into their ‘whited out’ world. They are not born into it nor have they had the luxury of learning how to manage it. As the film progresses it is not their blindness that leads the characters to grovel into their base instincts, its fear. That which was once taken for granted is lost and balance shifted, with those who were already blind now able to reign above the scrambling masses. It doesn’t help I guess that in this instance the narrative casts a blind character, The repugnant Accountant as such a negative and opportunist scumbag. But then of coarse there is nothing correct or pandering within this breath of foul air.

The films depiction of rape and the debasement of its female characters has also shouldered a blistering storm. Though again I see anything but gratuitous cinema here with every harrowing moment seemingly essential to the films bitter premise. Bleak and gritty does not always equal poignant cinema but here it works so well at dragging the viewer into frame. It here creates its hell with such putrid clarity that even the most simplest of tasks (bathing, buying food, dressing…) will for many become just that little less taken for granted. Not for everyone but search it out there is much, much more here than initially meets the eye.


Tagline: Your vision of the world will change forever.

  • Director… Fernando Meirelles (City of God)
  • Writer… Don McKellar (screenplay) From the novel by José Saramago.
  • Cast:
  • Yûsuke Iseya (Casshern) as First Blind Man
  • Don McKellar (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as The Theif
  • Yoshino Kimura (Masters of Horror – Dream Cruise) as First Blind Man’s Wife
  • Mitchell Nye (GravyTrain) as The Boy
  • Danny Glover (Age of the Dragons) as The Man with Black Eye Patch
  • Alice Braga (Predators) as The Woman with Dark Glasses
  • Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island) as The Doctor
  • Julianne Moore (Children of Men) as the Doctors Wife
  • Gael García Bernal (Babel) as the Bartender/ The King of Ward 3
  • Maury Chaykin (The Sweet Hereafter) as The Accountant
  • DVD Release Date… February 10, 2009
  • Filming Locations… Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Montevideo, Uruguay. São Paulo, Brazil.
  • Runtime… 120 minutes