Blindness Review
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Mark Ruffalo was one busy guy at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. Not only was he there to promote Rian Johnson’s caper comedy The Brothers Bloom—he was also there for crime drama What Doesn’t Kill You and the new Fernando Meirelles drama, Blindness. And if that doesn’t show that he’s a well-rounded actor, I can’t imagine what would.

Based on the award-winning novel by José Saramago, Blindness couldn’t be further from a caper comedy. It’s a haunting film about a mysterious blindness epidemic that starts suddenly, with just one man (Yusuke Iseya). One minute, he’s fine; the next, he sees nothing but white. But when his wife (Yoshino Kimura) brings him to an eye doctor (Ruffalo), the doctor can’t find anything wrong with him.

The next day, the epidemic has spread—and the doctor wakes to find that he’s gone blind, too. As he’s taken away to be quarantined, his wife (Julianne Moore) feigns blindness, risking her own sight to take care of him. Together, they’re brought a prison-like containment center, where the infected are left to fend for themselves.

Each day, their numbers grow. The containment center gets more crowded—and more chaotic. And as the battles begin to rage inside the center, the doctor’s wife tries to take care of the infected, secretly able to see every bit of the chaos and disorder that surrounds them.

Blindness isn’t an easy film to watch. It’s heavy and often disturbing—but it’s so stunning that it’s worth seeing anyway. Visually, Meirelles plays with light and focus, pulling the audience into the confusion and frustration of the characters’ condition. Much of the film is dark or washed out or otherwise distorted, using shadows, sound, and movement to tell the story. And the result is brilliantly disorienting.

That’s not to say, though, that the film is nothing but blurs and silhouettes. At times, it’s excruciatingly clear—and you’ll see the horrors of the situation in horrifying detail. In the same way, even though the characters have no names, you’ll look them in the eye, and you’ll get to know them—both the good and the bad. Thanks to strong performances from Moore and Ruffalo, as well as supporting actors like Gael García Bernal, who plays the self-appointed King of Ward Three, Blindness makes for a mesmerizing study of humanity—and how different people respond under pressure.

Clearly, bringing Blindness on-screen was a cinematic challenge. And while I haven’t read Saramago’s novel—so I can’t compare the two—I’d have to say that, from my point of view, Meirelles did a commendable job of presenting the chaos and confusion of the epidemic. It’s not always pretty, but it’s definitely striking.

DVD Review:
As I watched Fernando Meirelles’s Blindness for the first time, I was struck by the stunning visuals: the foggy, washed-out whites, the grim shadows, and the resulting feeling of disorientation. It’s a disturbing yet spectacularly artistic film, and I could immediately appreciate the careful planning and hard work that went into making the movie feel so…blinding. But now, after watching the DVD’s 25-part making-of feature, I can appreciate it even more.

Though it’s one of just two items on the bonus features menu (along with a set of five deleted scenes), the nearly hour-long making-of documentary is really all you need. It covers just about everything you’d ever want to know about Blindness—all presented in a bunch of short, manageable chunks. There are sections on the locations, the characters, the effects, and the music. You’ll watch as the actors stumble around in blindfolds to prepare for their roles. You’ll learn about the filmmaking techniques, the camera placement, and the direction. You’ll even get to watch part of the film’s Lisbon premiere with author José Saramago.

After watching Blindness, you’ll most likely want to step away for a while—to get a breath of fresh air and make sure that your eyes are still working correctly. But don’t set the DVD aside before you watch at least a few parts of this, um, eye-opening documentary.

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